Brazil Still Mum on Traffic Controller Error that Led to Boeing Crash

The flight recorder transcript from the Long Island executive jet involved in Brazil’s worst air disaster shows that its pilots were told by Brazilian air traffic control to fly at the same altitude as a Boeing 737 before the planes collided, according to a newspaper report Thursday.

All 154 people aboard Gol Airlines flight 1907 were killed on September 29 when the Boeing 737 crashed into Brazil’s dense Amazon rainforest after clipping the Embraer Legacy 600 executive jet. The smaller executive plane, which managed to land safely, was piloted by two Long Island men: Joseph Lepore of Bay Shore, N.Y., and Jan Palladino, of Westhampton Beach, N.Y.

According to the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo, the flight recorder shows Mr. Lepore receiving instructions from the tower in São José dos Campos to fly northwest at 37,000 feet "until Eduardo Gomes," the airport in Manaus. That altitude contradicted the pilots’ filed flight plan as well as established norms, which reserve odd-numbered altitudes for southbound flights.

Defense Ministry spokeswoman Flávia de Oliveira said she could not confirm Folha’s report but added more information could come Monday after Brazilian Air Force officials returned from Canada where the black boxes from the two planes were sent for analysis.

Folha did not reveal how it had obtained the transcript. The Air Force, which oversees Brazil’s air traffic controllers, has not yet released it to Brazilian federal police investigating the crash, or to the National Transportation Safety Board investigators who are participating in the probe.

The Legacy’s pilots – employees of ExcelAire Service Inc. of Ronkonkoma, N.Y. – were flying the Brazilian-made jet on its maiden voyage back to New York, and managed to land the badly damaged jet safely. They’ve been ordered to stay in Brazil during the investigation.

A lawyer for ExcelAire said the Folha report supported the pilot’s testimony to investigators.

"As we’ve maintained from the beginning, the pilots were cleared to Manaus for flight at three seven zero (37,000 feet) at the time of departure and we’re confident that anyone that is able to hear the tower tapes or see a transcript of the instructions issued by the São José tower will hear the exact same thing," said the lawyer Robert Torricella.

The tower instructions reported by Folha may have been the first of a series of problems that led to the crash. As the Legacy approached Brasí­lia, the plane lost radio contact with the control tower. The Legacy’s transponder, which signals the plane’s location to the tower and other airplanes, also stopped working.

Just what prevented the radio and transponder from working remains unclear, but from that point on, both the pilots and the air traffic controllers lacked critical information. Controllers had no way of knowing the smaller plane’s altitude.

Brazilian officials have insisted that the Legacy should have returned to its original flight plan after losing contact with the control tower. That plan would have mostly kept the smaller jet at 36,000 feet after Brasilia, and out of the path of the 737, which was flying at its customary altitude of 37,000 feet. Instead, both planes remained on a collision course.

But aviation experts say air traffic controller orders always take precedence over flight plans. They’ve also questioned why the controllers didn’t order the larger jet to change course just to be safe, since they lacked altitude information on the smaller jet at the time.



  • Show Comments (11)

  • claudia


    yuk kkkk

  • Guest


    yuk kkk

  • Gary

    Any one who spits on a baby deserves to be arrested, we can agree on that. But American’s do not have a monpoly on bad manners. While America has a significant quantity of obnoxious people, we have a disproportionate number of very good people as well. I would ask you to consider the plight of the Brazilian poor, the rich elite of your country keep them as $300 dollar a month slaves, cleaning their toliets, washing their clothes and rasing their kids, don’t you feel that this is obnoxious? Often they are raped by the senior of the house, but too afraid to quit what is considered a “good job” beacuse the need to feed their families, the rich of Zona Sul are some of the most obnoxiuos people on the face of the earth, rasing their kids to be selfish and care only about themselves and their familes, ignoring the poor and unfortunate whom they step around, sometimes literaly over, every day. I would argue that Americans are not “stupid” as almost 75% of Americans are now college graduates, our unemployment rates are under 5% and our economy continues to fuel the world. In addition, any country that can re-elect a uneducated, ineffective president like Lula has their share of idiots as well, I know, George Bush right? In that matter we agree, his re-election was not our best moment. Finally, how about the millions of Brazilians who now call America their home, I am married to one and most of our friends are from poor Brazilian families. Guess what, they could have spent there entire lives working hard in Brazil and still been dirt poor, here they have worked hard, own homes and cares and are able to provide good health care and educations to their children. These are the people that continue to make America great, smarter not more stupid. Your prejeduce demonstrates your own ignornance and probably lack of education and perspective, I wish you could be more objective, anti Americanism, in fact an anti-ism are what is stupid and not productive, we have our share of boors and snobs, but look around you, so does every other country on the face of this earth. Abracos.

  • claudia

    Let me tell you a secret… People in Brazil do not bear much Americans. They hate your obnoxious supercilious manners among other bad qualities. Simply hate it. The fact is that Americans are considerated escrotos AND absurdily stupid.I feel pitty for the decent Americans and that is why I will never EVER take all Americans the same way, I simply hate injustice.I tell you a fact: An American who came to Brazil to spend some holiday in Bahia and end up spitting on a baby face because the baby would not stop crying along the flight and the American tourist wanted to sleep. He was arrested by the macaquito police after the land.

    Over the plane crash, I really expect that the ones responsible for it are found, being them who they are, the Brazilians or the Americans, and respond to their acts.

  • Icann Rules

    I am an American pilot who has traveled extensively in Brazil. I know many Americans and Brazilians. None of whom fit the descriptions given here of either side. Again, this has been disappointing. The lurker(s) do not represent the majority of Brazilians.

    I would also recommend those critical of the Brazilians also exercise some patience. This is new territory for them. There have been a number of accidents in the US where the pilot was blamed when no other cause could be found. Colorado Springs and Pittsburg come to mind. They were eventually solved. How do you think the families of the dead pilots felt? Being told thier loved ones made a mistake which killed many.

    The clowns that pop up and blame politics and national policies are just itching for a fight and jump on any cause that allows them to trumpet thier world view. They have nothing to offer other than verifying thier own stupidity and short-sightedness.

    In the end, this was a human tragedy that hopefully will make air travel in Brazil safer.

  • Gary

    Oh, so now it’s the benefit of the doubt. Exactly as I thought, you were ready to fry the American pilots, but are now making excuses for the failures of the ATC. Is this not a double standard? Let’s hand the pilots, but excuse the ATC. There was a recent plane crash here in the US that killed 50 people, the ATC personal are under a criminal investigation? Let’s see how Brazil handles this problem now. Will there be an offical apology to the pilots and their families, to the victims families?

  • Icann Rules

    I will give the justice department and others the benefit of the doubt. They probably were not told what happened or were given information from people who did not know. It was the biggest aviation tragedy in the nation. It was a shock. At first I was amazed the Legacy was at an odd-numbered altitude. But there were other hints. The Legacy had radio problems. Fine, rules dictate other traffic is cleared. Other reports, not posted here, say that the transponder altimeter reading at the ATC was 3?0 not 370 due to a communications error. Again, any indications of a problem dictates a proactive approach by ATC. Move the Legacy or move the other traffic. Radio holes in the Amazon, cowboy flying, handoff problems between the two CINDACATA centers.

    ATPs are not usually suicidal. ATC centers do not make these types of mistakes on purpose. The altitude was probably overlooked due to the normal routine. 360 or 370?

    One point that is worth mentioning is that the instrumentation is almost too good for the current rules. There have been several midair collisions because of two aircraft flying the same GPS path (between two LAT/LON pairs) at precisely the same altitude. Flight levels have much less margin for error than in years past.

  • Gary

    Is it still a crime
    Brazil was ready to fry the American pilots, they had to hide them in Rio for their own safety. Now, is it still a crime? Or because of the incompetent Brazilian ATC will it now be considered an accident? Will the ATC personel be charged with manslaughter, or incomptence used as a defense? I am surprised and pleased that it seems there will be no cover up by Brazilian authorities. It was amazing how quickley Brazilians and the Brazilian press was quick to accuse “the American cowboy pilots”, will there be an apology to the pilots and their familes? Now lets consider the real possibilites, what were the odds that this accident was caused by 2 well trained American pilots…or caused by incompetent, poorly trained and probably drunk Brazilian ATC personel. Give me a break. I know everyone in Brazil was praying for it to be the American’s, perhaps they should be praying for the victims families and everytime they get on a Brazilian airlines.

  • ch.c.

    Authoritarian Brazil Military ????
    You are too nice !!!!
    It was not only them who were autoritarian but also the Brazilian Justice, the Brazilian Association of Pilots (supposed to be professionals….but are not) some ex Huse representative such as David Lerer who wrote an article on the Us arrogance for this plane crash, and another journalist who wrote about the US Xenopobia !!!!

    And the worst of all : Amorim who said many times that the US pilots were IRRESPONSIBLE by flying at 37000 feet !!!!! When those Irresponsbile ARE the ATC and no one else !!!! And what does Amorim, MInister of Foreign Relations, knows about aviation and its laws ? Why such a guy is entitled in view of his title, Minister of Foreign Relations……conclude about who are the guilty….. WELL before the end of the official investigations ???????

    And to the post from parqueantÀƒ¡rtica : Sorry but why are well over 2 millions of Brazilians illegally in the USA ? Because they hate America or their own country ?
    Same for all the Brazilians in the EU !!!!!!!!!

    If you hate America and/or the EU, why dont you go legally, if you can, make a new live with a job… China or Africa ? Well working conditions, quality of life and salaries are quite different !
    Quite funny that there are not 2 millions Americans or EU citizens legally or illegally in Brazil ! The simple reason is why should one go in this Tropical Mess ! And you just have provided once more that far more restrictions should be given to Brazilians “wishing” to have a visa !

    No one in this planet needs Brazil. Avoiding Brazil and Brazilians is avoiding futures problems. They cheat and rob everyone anyway they can, legally and illegally, even in their own country they do so !

  • parqueantártica

    By your rethoric you people are just angels, aren’t you? Gross

    The brutal greedy gringos are not and were never the least of Latin America’s problems, can you pick up a book history or BUY a book for a change?

    War monger individuals are the GREATEST WORLDWIDE CONCERN. You mess things up for EVERYBODY, even to your families, let alone the other ex pats and foreigners..You start the wars among people, then they all start to hete each other, and all over innocent people die people because of people exactly like you. Stop creating mess and hate everwhere!!

  • Icann Rules

    The flight plan is just that, a plan. It is not permission. The ATC authorizes and owns the sky.

    No organization or group of people are perfect. But the initial reactions by the press, the military, and many people who posted here – is very disappointing. The ATC knew almost immediately what had happened. They have thier own tapes. It will be interesting to see if those still exist.

    To the worshippers of Chavez, Che, and Castro…. You see the reaction of an authoritarian group, in this case your own military. Without an independent press and civilian oversight, what would have happened? Think about that the next time you yearn for your own version. Authoritarian rule, right wing or left wing, is bad news.

    To the reactionaries who form a mob seeking to hang any Gringo on any holiday occasion, the Gringos are the least of your problems.


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