The Brazilian Air Force (FAB, in Portuguese) keeps a representative at the Regional Office of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), located in Lima, Peru. FAB Colonel Alexandre Lima Prado, the pilot on assignment at ICAO since early 2017, is an aviation investigator from the Center for Investigation and Prevention of Aviation Accidents (CENIPA, in Portuguese). The FAB unit is tasked to investigate and prevent aviation accidents in Brazil. The partnership, born from an invitation by ICAO to develop operational safety in aviation for the South American region, began in 2015.
ICAO, a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN), was founded in 1944 to set standardized requirements that facilitate daily air operations. Its goal is to create a safe environment for pilots to allow them to operate their aircraft the same way in any part of the world. There are seven ICAO regional offices, including the one in Lima, Peru, the first to be established in 1948.
Brazil is the only country in Latin America with a representative at the ICAO office in Lima. The other professionals on site are staff of the institution. The assignment of the FAB investigative officer is to support sustainable development of air operations, as well as promote and improve investigation and prevention tasks of aviation accidents in the 13 member states within the South American region.
For FAB Major General Frederico Alberto Marcondes Felipe, head of CENIPA, having a Brazilian officer at ICAO’s regional office allows for a direct connection to the organization that sets the recommended standards and practices for global aviation. “This puts our country in a position to be an active player in the prevention of aviation accidents beyond our borders, and facilitates a knowledge exchange between CENIPA and South American countries,” Maj. Gen. Felipe said.
To him, Brazil is home to an aviation industry with a rich history and global representation. The country is an ICAO member with its own globally recognized Aviation Accidents Investigation and Prevention System (SIPAER, in Portuguese), which justifies the invitation. “CENIPA is honored to be able to represent Brazil in response to this request and to contribute to a modern, efficient, and—above all—safe air transport service on the South American continent, which is kept up to date with best practices,” Maj. Gen. Felipe said.
Experience in the service of aviation
Col. Prado is the second CENIPA investigator to participate under the cooperation agreement between FAB and ICAO. The colonel will serve at ICAO Peru until February 2019, before being replaced. To work with the most varied areas of aviation with international qualifications is a great opportunity for professional growth, he told Diálogo. “Learning about the differences that exist among member states, and being able to gain new knowledge and perspectives on structuring our accident investigation and prevention work is rewarding,” he said.
According to Col. Prado, the presence of a CENIPA official at such an important office for global aviation allows for new knowledge to be added to the work the center carries out. “This is an opportunity for Brazil to have contact with new tools that are used globally and help ensure that safety innovations in the aviation industry are taken up earlier on and incorporated more seamlessly,” he said.
Among the great challenges for his assignment, the colonel said, are to provide South American countries with a standardized development, and common policies and rules, as each nation has its own organizational structure. His 30 plus years of experience focusing on the area of operational safety in aviation was essential to carry out his activities in Peru, Col. Prado said.
According to Maj. Gen. Felipe, the officer’s experience was considered to select an FAB representative at ICAO. “The operational experience gained over the course of a military career adds maturity, interpersonal skills to build relationships, and decision-making abilities to our Brazilian investigators, which are important requirements to serve in a multinational organization of a diplomatic relations nature like ICAO,” he said.
Aviation research in Brazil
CENIPA, located in the federal district of Brasília, investigates and promotes operations to prevent aviation accidents in Brazil, based on criteria set by ICAO. To fulfill its mission throughout Brazil, the center has seven regional offices strategically placed across the country. “They were established to give SIPAER some traction, to help ensure that its investigation and prevention activities are done with the swiftness and scope required,” Maj. Gen. Felipe explained.
According to Maj. Gen. Felipe, CENIPA’s investigations have the sole purpose of preventing new accidents and do not have procedures to establish liability in the administrative, civil, or criminal domains. “That aspect is the responsibility of judicial bodies,” he said. The FAB unit is one of just a few in the world that are military in nature, but carry out activities for the investigation and prevention of aviation accidents.
For Maj. Gen. Felipe, the esteem and credibility that CENIPA earned enable it to develop relationships with military and civil research bodies built on mutual respect and cooperation. “Brazilian investigators commonly participate in other countries’ investigations, just as foreigners participate in investigations done by our country,” he said. “The interactions are such that CENIPA devotes a specific part of its organization to manage the processes that involve international organizations.”
Maj. Gen. Felipe also highlighted the trust with Brazilian airline operators. “They always contribute to the center’s work, and they voluntarily report risky situations that they experience, knowing that CENIPA will do everything in its power to mitigate the identified hazards,” he concluded.