It is December 2018 and a Brazilian pilot, Jeziel Barbosa de Moura, is on a routine flight, steering his single-prop Embraer air-taxi over the vast Amazon rainforest. He has several passengers on board and nothing indicates imminent danger. But then a cylinder fails, oil seeps over the windscreen – and suddenly his view is obscured.
A critical aircraft malfunction is never welcome, but there are few places more dangerous to have a breakdown than over the Amazon rainforest. Indeed, with such extensive tree cover, there are scant safe places to make an emergency landing. Moreover, the Amazon is a wilderness of such daunting vastness that without proper preparation you may never escape – or ever be found.
In fact, the Amazon covers an area of nearly 2.6 million square miles and is the largest expanse of tropical rainforest on Earth. Meanwhile, Barbosa de Moura found himself experiencing technical problems over the state of Pará in northern Brazil, close to the border with French Guiana, above a particularly remote tract on the lower Amazon river.