Heroes or Murderers? Brazil Investigates US Pilots’ Action on Boeing Crash

Two American executive jet pilots were ordered by a judge to stay in Brazil while authorities investigate whether they caused a midair collision with an airliner that crashed into the Amazon, killing all 155 people aboard.

A Brazilian newspaper reported that the pilots’ Legacy jet, which was carrying seven Americans, disobeyed an order by the control tower to descend to a lower altitude just before coming into contact with Gol airlines Flight 1907.

Federal police said Wednesday the pilots could be charged with manslaughter if investigators determine they were responsible for the crash.

"We have received an order from the Federal Prosecutor’s Office in Mato Grosso to begin investigating the possible commission of a crime inside the aircraft," said Geraldo Pereira, acting director of the Federal Police in Mato Grosso.

"We will start investigating if the two pilots caused the accident and if they are considered guilty they could be charged with involuntary manslaughter," Pereira said.

A judge in Mato Grosso state ordered federal police to seize the passports of pilot Joseph Lepore, of Bay Shore, N.Y., and co-pilot Jan Palladino, of Westhampton Beach, N.Y., "as a result of the doubts surrounding the case and the emergence of indications that the accident was caused by the Legacy," Mato Grosso Justice Department press spokeswoman Maria Barbant said by telephone Tuesday, October 3.

She said the two were not arrested but "just prevented from leaving the country, at least until we know exactly what happened" in Brazil’s deadliest air disaster.

The daily O Globo paper said the Legacy flew at 37,000 feet to the capital, Brasí­lia, but then ignored an order to descend to 36,000 feet to continue its flight to the Amazon city of Manaus. The Gol jetliner was flying at 37,000 feet from Manaus to Brasí­lia en route to Rio de Janeiro.

The damaged executive jet safely landed at a nearby air force base after the incident.

The pilots, who have been questioned by Mato Grosso investigators, were brought to Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday for routine physical tests. They were not injured in the incident.

The Legacy had been making its inaugural flight to the United States, where it had been purchased by an American company, said its manufacturer, Embraer.

Air force commander Gen. Luis Carlos Bueno also said the Gol flight, a brand-new Boeing 737-800, had a flight plan for 37,000 feet and the Legacy jet was authorized to fly at 36,000 feet, according to an interview Tuesday with Brazil’s government news service Agência Brasil.

He said neither plane was authorized to deviate from the plans. He said only an investigation of the planes’ black boxes could clarify the cause of the accident.

Christine Negroni, an investigator for the aviation law firm Kreindler & Kreindler of New York, said in an e-mail that under international guidelines the Legacy should not have been at an odd-numbered altitude because it was heading northwest.

"All westbound flights fly at even numbers with 1,000 feet separation. East bound flights fly at odd numbers, same 1,000 separation," she said. "Since the American pilots were flying northwest, they should not have been at 37,000 since that’s odd."

Investigators began examining voice and data recorders recovered from the jetliner Tuesday, but the National Civil Aviation Agency said one of the voice recorders was missing data.

"This unit is essential for analysis," the agency said on its Web site. It said military units were searching for missing parts.

Investigators will also look at why the pilots weren’t alerted by on-board equipment designed to avoid collisions. The air force said both jets were equipped with a Traffic Collision Avoidance System, or TCAS, which monitors other planes and sets off an alarm if they get too close.

The Gol plane crashed deep in the Amazon jungle in Mato Grosso state, some 1,100 miles northwest of Rio de Janeiro, killing all 149 passengers and six crew members.

There appeared to be only one American on the flight – Douglas Hancock, 35, of Missouri. He was in Mato Grosso for business and was returning to Rio de Janeiro where he lived, his father, Paul Hancock, told the Southeast Missourian newspaper.

Bueno said about 100 bodies were found within a half-mile of the wreckage and were flown to the coroner’s office in Brasí­lia for identification. He said rescue workers would have to open more clearings in the dense jungle to try to recover the rest.

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said it was sending a team of investigators, who would be joined by representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing Co.

The U.S. agencies were involved because the Gol plane was manufactured in the United States and the smaller jet was registered there.



  • Show Comments (4)

  • Europe

    To bibi
    please re-read this article that appeared in O’Globo that is self explanatory.

    It is quite too easy to say once : the air traffic control is good in Brazil, and read the exact opposite explanation from brazilian official sources in other articles.

  • Bibi

    I cannot believe – how dare you?
    You jumped from À¢€œcurious headlineÀ¢€Â, which was an interesting title to some strong language, which seemed that you were too personal on your comments. I urge you not to forget that the article presented the facts. First of all, before even calling Brazil a À¢€œtropical shitÀ¢€Â please have more respect for the 155 people who died in a crash that seemed to be caused by human error. We are not talking about urban violence, hot climate or corrupt govt. The fact is that these pilots are educated individuals in their profession and an error was made, which caused the deadliest airplane crash in the history of Brazil. You seemed not to care much about our history or our struggles because you wrote like a mad person with no reason nor care. The issue here is simple: were these pilots negligent or victims themselves? I never write replies to messages posted on the internet but yours mad me rethink about people like you, therefore here it is… Does it make you feel better to expose that Brazilians are a bunch of “crooks, cheaters, and corrupted in your soulsÀ¢€Â as you wrote? Since you opened this door to describe how Brazilians are I once again urge you to think deductively since educated might be too much to ask from you. Brazil is the fourth largest democracy in the world and second in the Americas. We are a developing country and as such we struggle to fit in with the most developed but despite of what you think we are developing as a nation. As people, I guarantee you we have more pride and honesty in our souls than you have suggested. By the way, what is your training on? Are you a historian, a political scientist or just a pissed off individual whom have no respect for the dead or should I call them innocent victims? You seemed to be capitalistic or at least suggested that you knew about the topic so let me refresh your mind. Those 155 passengers who drastically died that day 149 were paying individuals and what did they get? They were killed!!!! Not by enemy fire, not by bandits, not by the Brazilian police, not by the govt. or even our climate that you called “tropical shit”. THE FACT REMAINS BUDDY pilots from either legacy or gol or even both were negligents and that has nothing to do with us putting the blame on God forbid pilots from a first world country. I think the title of the article calls attention to the fact that these passengers were killed. Wise-up and while at it clean your mouth because at least where I come from we do respect the dead. I beat sometime in your life you have read or heard that European people do not shower everyday and that hygiene is not on the top of their list. Is that a fact or a myth? Either way is not polite to even mention it because it does not apply to the majority so we are on the same situation. I emphasize that the majority of Brazilians are not lowlife crooks as you suggested. I am very disturbed by your comments and I think radical people like you should take it easy. What goes around comes around. If I were to talk back to you the way you wrote your comments I would have downgraded myself. Despite that you spitted on us I wish you all the best and that you can separate facts from out of place comments on an issue that has hurt a lot of families in mourning. RESPECT ALONG WITH POLITINESS IN MAKING A STATEMENT SHOULD NEVER BE OVERSTATED. As Churchill once said, À¢€œa pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity but an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficultyÀ¢€Â. Based on your unfortunate comments, I am assuming you are a pessimistic who has nothing else to offer but bitterness. However, Brazilians are also known to be caring and forgiving individuals. Now I ask À¢€¦ is that a fact or myth? In your case, I hope is a fact and that you can be forgiven by your class/caste comments. But my hunch is that you do not care because your soul has no value. Maybe you can learn from a Brazilian how to make your point across without being vulgar and fatalistic.

  • europe

    And what about if……
    the following extract of an article that appeared also in 0’Globo is correct (not translated by me) :
    RIO DE JANEIRO: Miscommunication between air traffic controllers was probably to blame for Brazil’s deadliest-ever plane crash last week in which 155 people died, the Brazilian daily O Globo reported.

    The midair collision of a Boeing 737-800 and a smaller, twin-engine private plane occurred on Friday. Both machines flew into an air traffic control region in the state of Para jointly controlled from two separate towers, O Globo reported on Monday, citing a Brazilian air traffic control official speaking on condition of anonymity.

    Controllers in the two towers failed to discuss that the planes were entering the same airspace and instead assigned similar flight altitudes to their respective planes, leading to the collision, O Globo reported.

  • Europe

    curious headline !
    If the pilots would have been Europeans or Brazilians or Chileans but not Americans, would such headline statement as : Heroes or Murderers ? be made …?????

    I understand that you are in a free speech country.

    But then dont be surprised is some are calling Brazil : A Tropical shit !

    You had the same strategy for the tragic death of Your Jean Charles during the London bombings, but a totally different explanation during your SP chaos where far more than 1 innocent has been killed by your police.

    In that sense you are truly crooks, cheaters, and corrupted in your soul.

    Dont forget that 50 % of your trade surplus is done with the USA and the EU.
    Dont forget that you are begging us to buy more ethanol and agricultural products…from you !

    But with your acrimony…..you are not on the road to succeed !
    Except in diplomatic language, very soft and polite, we simply dont need You at all while you need us, not only to sell us goods, but also for technology transfer and investments……where you are totally NIL !!!!!!!

    You are really the shame in this planet.

    SPIT !!!!!!

    From the EU

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