In a major reprieve for the Brazil aviation authorities and government over last Tuesday's fiery crash of a TAM Airbus A320 at Sao Paulo, the investigation of the crash is shifting from the allegedly dangerous conditions at Congonhas airport to a thrust reverser that had been disconnected four days before the crash.
The controversy surrounding the crash has blown up into a political crisis, with Brazil's media and opposition politicians jumping on the Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva government, saying it had ignored the shortcomings of the airport, Brazil's busiest, and laying blame for the deaths on the administration.
The Airbus was landing in heavy rain on a 6,362-foot runway when it ran off the runway, skipped over a highway and exploded. The pilot may have been trying to take off again after realising the plane wasn't going to stop.
Authorities say landing with only one reverser operating is "not unusual" but it has opened a new dimension to the accident, serving to take some amount of heat away from the government.
Marco Aurelio Garcia, an aide to President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva apparently made an obscene gesture for the TV cameras that was interpreted as a "reaction of glee" that some of the pressure was easing up.
With a handy mechanical failure momentarily directing the blame away, Lula is back on the offensive, though he's also promised site selection for a new Sao Paulo airport within 90 days. In the meantime, charter aircraft and business jets are banned, and airlines have 60 days to stop using Congonhas airport as a hub.