A catastrophe over the Amazon, 16 years ago today

Late on the afternoon of September 29, 2006, I was on assignment on a business jet flying at 37,000 over the central Amazon in Brazil when suddenly tragedy struck. Due to errors of Brazilian air traffic control, the business jet and a commercial 737 airliner collided midair. The 737 went down in dense jungle, killing all 154 aboard. The business jet, severely damaged, managed to fly on, steadily losing altitude, for about a half hour.

Here is my initial report on the catastrophe in the New York Times, written hours after I got back from Brazil after several days in custody.  Two things: 1. The American pilots of the business jet were wrongly accused of being at fault — and later criminally convicted — by Brazilian authorities anxious to cover up Brazil’s air traffic control malfeasance. 2. I have never forgiven the editor who changed my words “collided with” to “clipped” in this article.

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