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Case of American Pilots Involved in 154 Deaths in Brazil Back in Court

American pilots Jan Paladino and Joseph Lepore The Brazilian court is once again dealing with the freak 2006 aviation accident that left 154 people dead after an executive jet piloted by two Americans sideswiped a passenger plane over the Amazon.

In September 2006, a Legacy jet manufactured by the Brazilian aviation company, Embraer, was on its way to its new owners in the United States piloted by two Americans, Joseph Lepore and Jan Paul Paladino.

Late in the afternoon, on a clear day, the jet glanced off another aircraft and, although damaged, managed to land at a military base in the jungle.

The other plane, a Boeing 737 owned by Gol airlines on a regular flight from Manaus to Brazilian capital Brasilia, was not so lucky: it crashed and everyone aboard died.

Immediately following the disaster, because they were considered key witnesses the American pilots were held in custody in Brazil until December 6, 2006. Then they were released and allowed to return to the US. Since then, the investigation of the accident has moved on and some aspects of the case have gone to trial.

In May, a Brazilian federal judge in the state of Mato Grosso, where the Boeing crashed, sentenced the two American pilots to jail terms that were changed to community services for “negligence in not verifying that their aircraft’s anti-collision equipment (transponder/TCAS) was operating.”

Separately, in June of this year, the Brazilian Civil Aviation Agency (Agência Nacional de Aviação Civil – Anac) fined the American pilots and the company that bought the Legacy jet (the fines were between US$ 2,000 and US$ 4,000). However, relatives of victims were upset with that ruling and have demanded a heavier penalty.

Today, new hearings will take place at Anac in Rio de Janeiro on the responsibility of the American pilots (note: Brazilian air traffic controllers have also been charged with partial responsibility for the tragedy).



  • Show Comments (5)

  • Guilherme

    Brazilian Controllers Had Primary Responsibility
    As a pilot and air traffic controller… it is a shame to see the military controllers receive what amounts to a slap on the wrist for their negligence in this accident, when – in fact – they were the primary cause. It is air traffic controller “law” that when one does not know with certainty (meaning verbally verified or verified by readout from the encoded transponder signal), one is to ALWAYS vector (steer clear) all known aircraft around the target of the non-verified aircraft. This is known as merging-target. The controller of the GOL flight had a duty to vector the GOL flight out of the path of the other aircraft. He did not, and that is the primary cause of this accident.

  • Harry Andruschak

    Blame the pilots for obeying orders?
    Let me see if I understand all this. The pilots were told by ATC to fly all the way to Manaus at 37,000 feet, and did so. When TCAS went off, this was clearly indicated back at ATC, and nobody informed the pilots, even though it is standard procedure for ATC to inform pilots that their TCAS is off. It is not a secret that Brazil has poor radar and radio coverage over much of the region where the crash occured.

    So back to square one. The pilots were told to stay at 37,000 feet. For thgis they are guilty. Or is the whole campaign against the pilots designed to whitewash out the severe lapses in ATC and equipment?

  • sofiaputa

    American Monkeys
    Put those american monkeys where they belong…. In the cage for public display!

  • Richard

    Not really
    The administrative appeal in Rio yesterday resulted in the fines against ExcelAire and the pilot in command, Joseph Lepore, being maintained. Paladino was not fined.

    The criminal conviction by the court in Mato Grosso is under appeal. It’s worth noting that the judge acquitted one controller because “he was so incompetent he should never have been allowed near a console” and asked for criminal charges against whoever put him there.

    I am fully familiar with the facts of the case. Gol 1907 was the second airliner brought down by the controller who cleared the Legacy to fly to Manaus at 37,000 feet. The prior aircraft brought to grief by his clearances was N219AS on Sept 19, 1986.

    The “relatives of the victims” pretend to represent all the victims, in fact they represent 10%, if that. Don’t believe anything they say.

  • capnamerca

    Hmmm . . .
    Just a couple things come to mind. i’m not really familiar with all the facts of this case, although I have read bits and pieces of it over the years. But a couple questions come to mind. 1) this was a new aircraft, and was picked up at the factory, yes? Was the TCAS system ever tested and checked by Embraer before delivering the aircraft? If not, aren’t they as much at fault as anyone? and 2) ANAC does not require all systems to be tested and verified before licensing the craft to operate in Brazilian airspace? 3) The commercial craft does not utilize the TCAS system, and are also responsible for this accident? I agree the American pilots share the blame, and deserved to be punished, but it seems to me like the ball was dropped several times here, by more than just the private pilots.

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