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‘Enough Is Enough’ Says Lawyer for US Pilots Detained in Brazil for 7 Weeks

ExcelAire, the US-based air-taxi company whose Legacy executive jet collided against a Boeing 737 over the Brazilian Amazon, causing Brazil’s worst air tragedy ever with 154 deaths, has just released a note in which it comments on the preliminary report on the accident released last week by the Brazilian Air Force.

What follows is this note in its entirety:

At a press conference in Brasí­lia on Thursday, the Brazilian Air Force released a preliminary report arising from the safety investigation of the September 29, 2006 accident between Gol Airlines Flight 1907 and an Embraer Legacy jet operated by ExcelAire Service, Inc.

According to Colonel Rufino Antônio da Silva Ferreira, "The moment at which we are in the investigation still doesn’t allow us to draw conclusions. It is premature to say that something caused the accident." He noted that, while he forecasts that it will take ten months to complete the investigation, that time may be extended.

"The fact that the accident investigators, which include aviation authorities from the Brazilian Civil Aviation Department and the National Transportation Safety Board, believe that they are ten months to over one year away from being in a position to reach any conclusions regarding this accident makes it absolutely clear that the continued detention of Joe Lepore and Jan Paladino is unjust and immediately must end," said Robert Torricella, counsel for ExcelAire and its pilots.

Even though conclusions are many months away, the preliminary report disclosed certain facts that the investigations have established. Facts revealed by the preliminary report make it clear that many of the accusations made against the ExcelAire pilots were completely unfounded.

The report notes that, after reaching its assigned altitude of 37,000 feet, the Legacy aircraft maintained that altitude until the time of the collision, disproving the baseless allegations that ExcelAire’s pilots were performing "aerial maneuvers" in flight.

The report confirms a bilateral communication between the Legacy and air traffic control as the Legacy approached Brasí­lia at its assigned altitude of 37,000 feet, and notes that air traffic control never assigned the Legacy to any other altitude after that time, further confirming that the Legacy was at the proper altitude at all times during its flight.

During his press conference, Colonel Da Silva Ferreira also confirmed, as ExcelAire has maintained throughout these proceedings, that a written flight plan is not necessarily the operative document that governs a flight and that, instead, air traffic control clearances can modify the written document.

"The flight plan, the one on paper, it’s a filed plan. It is not absolute," Rufino said. He noted that filed flight plans are not always followed, as written, after take-off and are influenced by other circumstances, a cautious reference to air traffic control instructions that modify and supersede the written document.

"We are confident that, as additional facts come to light, they will continue to establish that Joe and Jan have been the victims of baseless speculation and false accusations," Torricella said.

The preliminary report does not disclose the contents of the written flight plan for the Gol Airlines flight and, while mentioning that there were no communication problems between air traffic control and the Gol Airlines flight, it does not release any details regarding those communications, including whether air traffic control undertook any efforts to instruct the Gol Airlines flight to deviate course or altitude to avoid the impending collision.

Colonel Da Silva Ferreira emphasized that ExcelAire’s pilots were "very cooperative" and provided full statements within days of the accident. He confirmed that their presence in Brazil is not related to the ongoing investigation. In addition to their statements to the safety investigators, ExcelAire’s pilots also provided full statements to military authorities and to police officials in Mato Grosso within days of the accident.

"Joe and Jan have done everything asked of them and each gave three lengthy statements within roughly the first 72 hours after the accident. They have since been held in Brazil for almost seven weeks without just cause. Enough is enough. It is time that they be permitted to return home to their families," Torricella stated.

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  • Show Comments (15)

  • andy murphy

    But the Good and competent FAB officers are being oppressed by commies,for no fault of theirs.The patriotic officers and the airmen under their command are being harassed by the commies.I really hope that their beloved and brave minister of Defense comes out of his senile temper tantrum and talks some sense.But,what do you expect out of a card holding member of the “Party”?.

  • Ralph M

    Air Traffic Clearances
    Written flight plans are requests by the pilots of each plane before takeoff. All that counts are the ATC assignments (“clearances”) given by radio just before takeoff. ATC may be amend them after takeoff and the latest one is all that matters. Pilots may request changes inflight, but must follow those requests only if ATC clears them to do so. Anything else leads to chaos. That latest clearance is the only athority to procede. Communications must be clear and are confirmed so both parties know the clearance is understood. This is world wide procedure. The American pilots conformed to the clearances in a professional manner as the flight recorders show. They are blameless victims.

    I am surprised that Embraer has not put pressure to get them released. Half of their manufacturing output and many Brazilian jobs depend on thousands of other pilots doing exactly what these two pilots from America did. What if all those others refuse?

    BTW, if Legacy 600 passenger Joe Sharkey has some responsibility for the accident as some so foolishly claim, does that not also apply to all those passengers on the Gol 737? Are ypu saying that Joe Sharkey is guilty of surviving? Good for Jow! You do have some unusual ideas! Get a life! RM

  • Rick

    Roger that, and my guess is that the damage to the LegacyÀ‚´s spar is such that the government will not issue a ferry permit (traslado) and it will be stripped and abandoned.

  • Mad Max

    The comment about structural failure and the Brazilian hardware vs American hardware is total nonsense. It was pure chance and nothing else that the one jet survived. To suggest otherwise only demonstrates a lack of knowledge.

  • bo

    [quote]Are you suggesting that Brazilian judges donÀ‚´t understand the principles of free speech? ThatÀ‚´s a serious allegation…. [/quote]

    They may understand the principles, but like everything else in brazil, the laws are rarely enforced. Now it’s being admitted that this was a controller error. What now?

    And if anyone thinks that Embraer planes are 100% brazilian, lol, not by a longshot!!

  • Wiken

    Sorry, but I have to disagree. One of the outcomes of that tragedy was Embraer being praised for the excellent jet they built, that could resist an impact against a much bigger plane, and still fly in fairly good conditions over the Amazon rainforest to land safely in the middle of nowhere. Even Joe Sharkey, the NYT reporter and High Priest of the Brazil Hating Cult, praised the Legacy on that.
    Actually, Embraer provided the only machine/equipment that presented no problem whatsoever throughout the whole disaster. As for some other equipments that played a critical role in the event, they were all made in the US – the Legacy transponder (general failure), the Boeing 737 (destroyed)… Ironic, huh?

  • Rick

    I see this situation doing more harm to Embraer in the sales of the new light jet, Phenom, to individuals, than any other single program. AOPA and Flying magazine have not been heard on this yet. When they are, I predict that positions will be cancelled and the boys in SJC will wish they never heard of these officials in Mato Grosso.

  • Rick

    Yeah, I live here too, point well taken, but what is going on here is a balancing act between giving the povÀƒ£o their pound of flesh and taking a hit in the wallet, I have friends who ferry those planes and they donÀ‚´t like this, plus Embraer is not alone in this niche. Other planes are out there in friendlier skies. The Bandeirante filled a niche, the XingÀƒº didnÀ‚´t, looked like a Merlin three, didnÀ‚´t sell many. When it hurts, they will give them back their passports.

  • Wiken

    All right, but if you know Brazil (I do), you’ll agree that the lawyer’s tactics are doomed to backfire. In contrast with Torricella, who is American, the Brazilian lawyer hired by ExcelAire have kept a very low profile, albeit his public prominence as a former Justice minister. BTW, since Torricella stepped in, the situation of the Legacy pilots have become more and more delicate.

  • Rick

    Whatever works.

  • Wiken

    No, I’m just suggesting that the lawyer seems to be a little tactless.DonÀ‚´t you agree?

  • Rick

    Are you suggesting that Brazilian judges donÀ‚´t understand the principles of free speech? ThatÀ‚´s a serious allegation….

  • Wiken

    Enough is enough??
    Torricella’s comments are irrelevant. He is quoting an Air Force officer about a decision that has nothing to do with the Air Force. The pilots’ passports have been retained because of a judicial order. The government has no responsibility whatsoever in that decision. So the Air Force is not to blame. The courts that have refused to hand over the passports have all the responsibility for that.
    On the other hand, what in hell does Torricella mean by “enough is enough”? Is this some kind of a threat? If so, he can expect real problems when time comes for him to deal with judges who won’t be quite happy about being challenged that way.

  • Ben Dover & Cee Howitt Feels

    to Ch. c
    You don’t agree or disagree with nothing, asshole… you just wait until the investigations are completed.

  • ch.c.

    I totally agree !
    Brazilians are cheating the International Aviation Laws, not providing all the details of their investigations, not even yet questionned the ATC’s. They are hiding, on purpose, facts, contradicting themselves in their comments on a regular basis.

    I have no doubt that not only Justice will prevail but that it will be very costly to Brazil, one way or another !

    Brazil is really a Tropical Mud and Brazilians love to swim in that mud ! Because that is all they can do and nothing else !
    Cheating, lying and hiding is their specialty !

    To avoid a problem, avoid going to Brazil so that Noooooo Brazilian representing their fucking justice can create problem to anyone !

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