Early analysis of the flight data recorders from two planes that collided in Brazil’s deadliest air disaster indicated the smaller jet’s transponder was not signaling its location at the time of the accident, revealed Brazil’s Defense minister.
All 154 people aboard Gol Airlines flight 1907 were killed last September 29 when the Boeing 737 crashed into Brazil’s dense jungle after clipping an executive jet.
In a press conference Defense Minister, Waldir Pires, said that initial analysis by the International Organization of Civil Aviation in Canada showed the transponder aboard the Embraer Legacy 600 executive jet was not broadcasting the aircraft’s location.
"There is still no confirmation if the transponder was turned off or if there was an interruption because of equipment failure" Pires said. "That we don’t know."
The Legacy, on its maiden flight to U.S. purchaser ExcelAire Service Inc., landed safely at a Brazilian military base with none of the seven people aboard harmed.
Pires also said the Legacy’s data recorder showed the pilots told air traffic controllers in the capital Brasília they were flying at 37,000 feet as they approached the city.
"The position of 37,000 feet until Brasília was the normal position," Pires said. "After Brasília (the plane) should have dropped to 36,000 feet." The crash occurred after the plane passed Brasília and air traffic controllers lost contact with the Legacy.
The Legacy apparently collided with the Boeing at 37,000 feet, an altitude reserved for planes travelling in the opposite direction. Investigators were trying to determine how the smaller jet came to return to the higher altitude, and were considering possible error by the pilots or air traffic controllers.
Earlier this week, Pires said the Legacy appeared to be following its flight plan after it passed Brasília, the first time since the accident that a Brazilian official acknowledged that radar had tracked the Legacy’s altitude.
Controllers previously said they were unable to track the plane’s altitude because its transponder stopped transmitting shortly before the crash. The two US pilots of the Legacy have had their passports retained and must remain in Brazil pending the investigation.