The boy was being held in intensive care in the capital Brasilia and the life-saving heart was available in Itajuba, in the southeast of the huge country, on January 1.
For the transplant to have any chance of success, the operation would have had to take place within four hours, but no plane was available, the health ministry told AFP. The nearest airport to the donor heart, in Pouso Alegre, can only handle small aircraft, the ministry said.
With no other donated heart becoming available, the boy died at the end of last week.
O Globo newspaper reported that a request from the National Transplants Center to the military was also turned down “for operational reasons,” but that an inquiry would be opened into the episode. Commercial airlines said their aircraft were too big for the runway.
The four-hour deadline for heart transplants “made it difficult” in such a big country, the ministry said.
With a prompt delivery of the heart, the boy might still not have lived, a source in the health ministry said. “His state of health was delicate. Even if the heart had arrived in time, there is not a 100 percent guarantee his organism would have accepted it.”
The air force said that last year it flew six hearts to Brasilia for transplants.