US Pilots Association Urges Brazil to Release American Pilots

The Allied Pilots Association (APA), collective bargaining agent for the 13,000 pilots of American Airlines, has issued a statement calling for the release of the two pilots of an ExcelAire Embraer Legacy 600 that was involved in an apparent mid-air collision with a Gol Airlines Boeing 737 on Sept. 29 over Brazil.

The two pilots, who are U.S. citizens, were required by Brazilian authorities to surrender their passports and have been detained since the accident.

APA says that it previously issued a statement on October 11 emphasizing the importance of a "full, fair and timely investigation" into the cause of the accident.

The Gol Airlines Boeing 737 went down with the loss of all 154 aboard, while the damaged ExcelAire jet landed safely at a remote military airfield.

"The Allied Pilots Association reiterates its call for a full, fair and timely accident investigation and respectfully requests that the Brazilian government permit Captain Joseph Lepore and First Officer Jan Paladino to return to the United States.

"We further call upon Brazilian authorities to conduct this accident investigation according to widely accepted International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Annex 13 guidelines, rather than as a criminal proceeding.

"It has long been understood that criminalizing the accident investigation process has a serious chilling effect on its effectiveness, since parties to an accident are likely to be less forthcoming with potentially vital information.

"APA is also asking the U.S. government to express to Brazilian authorities the need to permit the two pilots to return to their homes, as well as the importance of conducting the accident investigation in accordance with ICAO Annex 13.

"In closing, we will continue to keep everyone affected by this tragic accident in our thoughts and prayers."

Founded in 1963, APA is headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas. There are currently 2,852 American Airlines pilots on furlough. The furloughs began shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Also, several hundred American Airlines pilots are on full-time military leave of absence serving in the armed forces. The union’s Web site address is www.alliedpilots.org. American Airlines is the largest passenger carrier in the United States.

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