The Brazilian Justice seems to have had enough with all the secrecy involving the investigation around the Boeing 737 that crashed in the Amazon jungle after colliding with a small Legacy executive jet piloted by two Americans.
Charles Renaud Frazão de Moraes, the federal judge in Sinop, the little town in Mato Grosso state, investigating the tragedy that left 154 dead now wants all the information that has been collected on the matter in 48 hours on the desk of federal police chief Renato Sayão Dias.
The probe over the accident, which occurred September 29, has been dragging for weeks under the watchful eyes of the Air Force, which isn’t allowing anyone to peek under the hood.
Judge Moraes order, however, is very clear: he wants that Air Force brigadier Jorge Kersul Filho hand over to Mato Grosso federal police chief Dias all the material collected by Cenipa, the Air Accidents Investigative Committee.
He has also determined that the Air Force has to surrender any document being held by the Air Force’s Department of Air Space (Decea).
The federal judge pointed out that the Air Force may be charged with administrative improbity and breach of legal duty in case it refuses to comply with the judicial order.
Moraes also noted that the Brazilian Air Force has no authority to decide when an inquiry is done in camera proceeding. In any case, he stated, there is no legal basis to conduct the investigations of the Boeing’s crash in secrecy. The judge has also given the federal police 30 extra days to conclude its enquiry on the plane accident.
The federal judge seems especially interested in the transcripts of the Legacy’s black box, which was taken to Canada soon after the accident to be analyzed there.
The Air Force has been denying access to the planes data and voice recordings alleging that it is supported by international legislation to do so.
The black boxes might contain the answer to who or what is to blame for the collision between the Boeing and the Legacy: the air controllers, the devices inside the aircraft, the American pilots or a combination of several factors.
Sayão in his request to the judge had argued that he couldn’t possibly continue his investigations without knowing what is inside the Legacy’s black box. He says that he needs to confront radar and air controllers’ data with what has been registered in the Legacy’s data and voice recorders.
The Sinop’s Justice has also refused to return the passports confiscated from pilots Joseph Lepore and Jan Paul Paladino saying that they must stay in Brazil until the Federal Police inquiry on the case is done.
They will be let go only if and when they are cleared of any wrongdoing. Their lawyer had argued that their detention was illegal because nobody else in the case, all Brazilians, had been deprived of their right of coming and going.
Air Traffic Controllers
Thirteen flight controllers – ten from Brazilian capital Brasília and three from São José dos Campos, the city from where the Legacy took off – will depose November 20 and 21, after they return from the medical leave they were granted for psychiatric treatment. They will be heard in Brasília as witnesses in the case.
Through his personal aide Pedro Formiglia, Brazilian Defense Minister, Waldir Pires, on Monday, November 13, sent a message to The New York Times reporter Joe Sharkey: "The retaining of the pilots passports was ordered by the Brazilian Justice and the journalist, as someone who knows a democratic society, should also know that the government cannot interfere in a judicial order."
Sharkey had written Sunday on his blog – www.joesharkey.com – under the headline "Monty Python’s Flying Circus" that "there were strong hints last week that the two American pilots being held hostage in Brazil after a Sept. 29 mid-air collision over the Amazon that killed 154 were going to be released this week."
The journalist, however, didn’t name his source for the "strong hints." From reading the Brazilian press the hints went in the opposite direction with fresh Pires charges that the Americans had messed it up.
Sharkey continued: "The reason for that is the Brazilian Air Force, and its boss, the dissembling Defense Minister Waldir Pires, had pretty much run out of excuses for detaining the two pilots while the secret investigations drag on. The Air Force is responsible for air traffic control, as well as for INVESTIGATING aviation accidents.
"Prospects for scapegoating the pilots, Joe Lepore and Jan Paladino, both of Long Island, faded considerably two weeks ago when it became clear that the Legacy 600 business jet that collided with a Gol Airlines 737 was not defying Air Traffic Control orders and was flying at its assigned altitude, 37,000 feet, under orders from Air Traffic Control, which according to all international aviation protocols take precedence over a flight plan filed before takeoff.
"It so happened that the Gol 737 was also at 37,000 feet flying in exactly the opposite direction, under orders from Air Traffic Control, when the horrible collision occurred over dense jungle between Brasília and Manaus."
The US journalist is now on a crusade to bring the two American pilots back home by Thanksgiving:
"But listen, aviation community: Your two colleagues down there in Brazil are being held hostage for political and financial reasons, and it’s time you moved away from the copy machines with your grand statements. It’s time for you to stand up for them.
"Right now, the international community of pilots all know that what is going on in Brazil is a travesty. I suggest you forget the great statements and appoint some spokespeople to get on some old-fashioned soapboxes and mount a public drive, to put some pressure on Brazil, and perhaps Brazil’s important tourist industry, to straighten up and fly right in this incident and to get the Legacy pilots home by Thanksgiving."