Brazil Blames Boeing Crash on American Pilot Flying at Wrong Altitude

The Brazilian aviation authorities say that the Brazilian-made Legacy jet that collided with Gol’s Boeing 737-800 last Friday (September 29) causing 155 deaths and Brazil’s worst aviation disaster ever, was flying at the wrong altitude.

While the plane flew from São José dos Campos to Brasí­lia at 37,000 feet it should have lowered its flight height to 36,000 after passing Brazilian capital Brasí­lia and on its route to Manaus. The Legacy, however kept the same altitude, in a collision path with the Boeing.

Joseph Lepore and Jean Paul Palladino, respectively pilot and co-pilot of the Legacy,  which was being taken from its Embraer manufacturer in São José dos Campos to the United States, told police that they had authorization from Brasí­lia’s control tower to fly at 37,000 feet until Manaus where they would have a stop-over before continuing their flight to the US.

The pilots testimony was given on Sunday, in Cuiabá, capital of Mato Grosso state, to police chief Anderson Garcia. That state police is in charge of the inquiry on the plane crash because the accident occurred and the Boeing fell down in an Amazon region with dense vegetation and difficult access in Mato Grosso.

Brazil’s Air Force Commander, Brigadier Luiz Carlos da Silva Bueno, told reporters in an interview, Monday, October 2, that both of the planes involved in the accident had neither asked for nor had been given authorization to change their flight’s altitude. "Someone must have changed the original flight plan", said the brigadier.

According to Brazilian Air Force officers, the Legacy pilots had been alerted by flight controllers at the Cindacta-1 (Integrated Center of Air Defense and Air Traffic Control), headquartered in Brasí­lia that their plane was on the wrong course, but they didn’t answer the control tower’s calls. On the other hand, the Boeing was being controlled by the Cindacta-4 operators located in Manaus.

While the crash may have occurred due to a misunderstanding, authorities are asking themselves why the automatic anticollision system, the TCAS, didn’t work as it should. Both planes were equipped with this device that should detect the presence of another plane nearby. 

The Legacy pilots say that the anticollision equipment was on all the time but it never sounded any alert over the Boeing’s approach.

Adriano Roberto Alves, a Mato Grosso prosecutor, has sent a letter rogatory to the São José dos Campos police for them to confiscate the passports of the American pilots who are back in the city helping with the investigations of the accident.

The Brazilian authorities want to be sure that they won’t leave the country before they have enough answers about the collision between the Legacy jet 600 and the Boeing 737.

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