By Tim Whewell and Jéssica Cruz
BBC World Service, Brazil
Three months ago, eight people disappeared on a flight deep in the Amazon. Small planes are often the only way to get around – but because most landing strips are unofficial, pilots have to lie about where they are flying. And this means that when planes go missing, it can be unclear where to look for them.
It was a few minutes after midday on 2 December last year when Paulo Tridade suddenly heard the tense, urgent voice of his fellow pilot Jeziel Barbosa de Moura, on a crackly plane-to-plane radio.
“Paulo,” he said, “It looks like I’ve lost a cylinder. There’s oil leaking on to the windscreen. I’m going to land at Independência.”
Paulo, also in the sky over the Amazonian rainforest, 22 minutes’ flying time away, tried urgently to dissuade him: “No, you can’t,” he said. “There’s no longer any landing strip there; it was abandoned 15 years ago. Aim for the river, the Parú, instead – try to land on water.”[…]