Brazil Police Give Green Light: American Pilots Can Go Back Home

Even if considered suspect by the Brazilian justice Joe Lepore and Jan Paladino, the two American pilots detained in Brazil for two months, will be allowed to go back home in the next few days.

They have been in virtual house arrest since the collision between the Legacy executive jet they were flying and the Boeing 737, which ended up causing Brazil’s worst air accident ever.

Their trip back home might happen as early as next week, after Lepore and Paladino are once again heard by Federal Police chief Renato Sayão, who is in charge of the criminal investigation around the accident that killed 154 people in the Amazon jungle.

By order of Sayão, a federal judge in the state of Mato Grosso, the Americans had their passport confiscated and had been in virtual prison in the Marriott Hotel in Copacabana beach, in the southeastern Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro. 

The federal police chief told reporters today that he is going to hear the testimony of both pilots next week and that after that the pilots will be free to fly home.

He also said that the Americans can go back to the United States even if they are indicted since Brazil and the US have agreements of juridical cooperation. Sayão also commented that it helped the fact that the investigations showed that they haven’t acted with malice or criminal intent.

One hundred pages of transcripts from the Legacy’s black boxes are being translated into Portuguese. They include not only the conversations between the pilots and the control tower, but also what the two pilots talked between themselves. Sayão says that this information will be vital to decide the degree of culpability of the American pilots. 

"The technical investigations demonstrate that the Legacy’s flight was in a straight line, without sudden maneuvers or risky tests, as it was conjectured at the beginning," said Sayão, adding that the US Justice would be notified about the unfolding of the whole process and that the pilots would be questioned in the United States, in the future, when necessary.

Sayão now is turning his attention to the Brazilian controllers. The Federal Police is now convinced that flight controllers made serious mistakes in São José dos Campos, from where the Legacy left, as well as in Brasí­lia, which should have told the executive jet to descend to an altitude of 36,000 feet, but never did it.


  • Show Comments (18)

  • Robert Mark

    Ray of hope
    I agree with Ralph. We have a ray of hope to get these two guys out. Let’ slow down on the speculation until they get home. The issues will not have changed.


  • Stephen

    More trouble Brewing!
    Now the Assoc of families of the Gol victims want to have all the data made available to them from the Legacy black box and are saying that the pending release of the pilots is for economic reasons.Their lawyers should explain that there is a international Bi – laterial agreement and it is almost impossible to keep then in Brazil much longer, unless of course Brazil wants to become a rogue nation and not abide by the agreements. I think the PF have had the good judgement to interview them and then send them home. SOON !!

  • Diane Bradley

    Hoping for the best
    Like many of you here, I have adopted a ‘wait and see’ attitude about their release and, as always, prepare for the worst while hoping for the best. It is my sincere hope that they be allowed to return to the USA as soon as possible to return to some semblance of a ‘normal’ life. I can’t help but wonder, though, if they and their families will be provided with the professional support and help they will need for probably quite some time afterward. They have essentially been held, involuntarily; in a nation seething with mass hatred toward them, born out of the depths of grief, in what I would imagine would be vaguely similar to a POW situation. I think it goes without saying that immediate counseling and PTSD testing will be necessary, as well as any needed long term aftercare. Any of you who know, firsthand, what PTSD can do to your mind will agree with me, I’m sure. Also, I can’t imagine that their wives and children wouldn’t need long term assistance as well. Additionally, what if this experience has so traumatized these guys that they can’t or won’t fly again? What about re-education in another field if need be? I’m assuming that this is something that excelaire will be providing for them, perhaps as part of a workers comp type of thing?

    Was just curious about that, as I had a friend who had an incident occur at altitude and was offered absolutely NOTHING afterward by his employer as far as debriefing or counseling afterward. The entire crew was not only tremendously shaken by the incident, but deeply traumatized as well. I’m sure the pax of the Legacy can identify quite strongly with that. Add on the added stress and trauma of a two month detainment and, well… you see my point.

    It is my hope that they have a safe and speedy return… and then some immediate, top notch help afterwards for as long as is needed.

  • Simpleton

    Ralph M. – The charts you get for this region will likely show very little for VOR / DME coverage. In most of Brazil the radio nav stations with onboard equipment widely accepted around the world are good for about 130 NM vs 160 NM elsewhere. In general you won’t get more than about 200 NM good service out of them at any altitude. From the location info posted in other threads you might guess that the main ATC centers and commerical and military airports where the ground based installations are typically located are much greater distances apart than this. The air routes are published against a theoretical track on the ground. The commercial boys and the modern civil aircraft all have onboard systems these tracks can be programmed into and GPS is used to follow them. It’s much more likely for the two aircraft to both be pecisely on the center of this track using the onboard systems than it would be using the nav radios.

    Doubt the Legacy cockpit has a substandard design. If the TCAS/ACAS systems were turned off or failed, this would be very prominently advised in AMBER in the displays or by an idiot light or both. It’s conceivable that a radar altimeter (which doesn’t usually work above 2500 feet or 5000 feet except for some military systems) might have malfunctioned in some way and thus defeated the visual and audible cautions and warnings one or both of the two aircraft should have received which would have guided one or both to avoiding the collision. Focus is on the transponders (I hope the GOL one can be recovered as well) as a problem with the status of that receiver-transmitter would represent a single point problem that affected both aircrafts abilities to see each other via the TCAS / ACAS as well as preventing the ATC from monitoring altitiudes other than by what can be accomplished via the primary radars. SIVAM most likely does estimations / projects during such times as the altitude data collected from the transponders is missing / happens to drop out. The ATC should know whether the presentaions they get are based on data or based on computer estimations / projections. It should not take 7 minutes for them to have big flashing flags pop up if an in range transponder source drops out.

  • Rick

    Brazil has user fees. Talk, park, overnight, taxi, whatever….the operator is charged. So it is not uncommon for off-airways traffic at the lower levels to squalk 2000 (vfr, same as 1200 in the states) and not key the mike, or even turn off the xponder. But part 135 guys wouldnÀ‚´t do that since they donÀ‚´t pay the bills. Part 121 guys never.


  • Stephen

    Does anyone remember when Ronny Regan fired 10,000 ATC controlers? On the same day! Well, privatize the ATC here and then dump all the misfits and kiddys. Give them 2 years in a mental hospital to get better.What a pile of S**t

  • Stephen

    Ok Rob, agreed. alltheway, one of the american pilots is on furlough from AA so it not like he is a bush pilot. until they are are home plate and safe lets wait it out.cheers
    footnote, Gol and Tam are offering big discounts today until the end of the year to intice Brazilans to keep flying rather than demanding the goverment fix the ATC. Does it matter if you get wacked up there what you paid for your seat?

  • alltheway

    The “benefit” is to fly at any altitude or direction they choose, to practive manuvers, to “play” with the plane, Over the Amazon, because it is so large it is easy to get a feeling that no one is there but you. If Brasil had weak tracking it is just an added way to ensure no one would be aware of what they were doing, IF they were doing anything which apparently they were not

  • Stephen

    Can someone help me to understand why anyone would think that the pilots would even think to turn off their transpondor?
    What would be the benefit to do that? This thought process by the Brazilians is not comprehesonable! And I live in Brazil and have seen it all but this takes the cake folks. Isn’t this device like driving your car at night on a dark road and for some lunatic reason you turn your lights off? Where is the logic. Also can anyone comment on the possiblity that it could have been turned off by mistake? Is there not an alarm that would tell them it is off…not ON ?

  • Mad Max

    The investigation began as a criminal proceeding. It should NEVER have been assumed that the accident was due to criminal behavior by either aircraft or the controllers. It was an accident, and the cause needed to be discovered. If the the cause showed criminal initent, then fine – proceed wth criminal charges.

    By starting off with the intent to lock someone up – the American pilots, and the controlers, became part of a bigger drama. A totally counter-productive drama. No wonder the controllers were ill.

  • Ralph M

    Please, let’s wait!
    Please, let’s wait until they are safely out of the country before we say too much!

    Thanks for all the info, realgivp! Very interesting. Sure wish you would give a little info about your experience as you seem to be very knowledgeable about this. I’m printing you statements for reference. Really appreciate the explanation.

    I hope we can continue to discuss this even after they are on the way home. I have ordered an aeronautical chart of the Brazilian airways and nav facilities from Jeppesen to see what facilities they have and where. Would somebody say again the location of the collision? It looks like neither plane was riding a VOR radial for centerline definition as even at 370 they were below the line-of-site signal due to Earth curvature. They must have been maintaining ground track with onboard equipment. That males a collision even more a long shot and radio voice communication problems only a slight contributor.

    Best wishes to Joe and Jan for a safe and speedy trip home.



  • ch.c..

    Strange that the judge said…..
    “He also said that the Americans can go back to the United States even if they are indicted since Brazil and the US have agreements of juridical cooperation. SayÀƒ£o also commented that it helped the fact that the investigations showed that they haven’t acted with malice or criminal intent”

    – because he knew from day 1 the existence of the US/Brazil judicial cooperation.
    therefore he had no reason to seize the passports….by definition !
    – does the judge really believed that 2 american pilots would have acted with a criminal intent… commiting a plane crash…..putting their own lives at risk ?
    – did the judge need 2 months to realize they are not Kamikazes or like the suicide bombers ??????

    Therefore….YESSSSSS, this was only a POLITICALLY DRIVEN ACCUSATIONS !!!!!!!

    Very sad that Brazil Justice is totally controlled by the government !

    But afterall this is Brazil, a medieval and archaÀƒ¯c country, controlled by a bunch of
    crooks totally corrupted at all and every level !

  • Norman Kemble

    Home at Last? Part 2 a continuation from the first post
    It is well known that in certain areas of the world reliable ATC communications are sporadic at best, and periods of communications loss are common. However, in the instant case, there was no two-way communication between the Legacy and ATC for one hour and five minutes, from the last ATC contact at 3:51 pm until the collision at 4:56 pm Brasilia standard time. The Legacy crossed the BRS VOR at 3:56 pm and after the turn onto airway UZ6 was cruising at a level not in compliance with the hemispheric rule for one hour until the collision. While any loss of communications with ATC can be cause for concern, the situation becomes especially urgent when an aircraft is established on an airway and cruising at a level inappropriate for the direction of flight.

    According the the NTSB, beginning at 4:48 pm, the crew of Legacy N600XL made a series of 12 radio calls to ATC attempting to make contact. At 4:53, the crew heard the call instructing them to change frequencies, but the pilot did not understand all of the digits, and requested a repeat. No reply from ATC was received. The pilot made 7 more attempts to establish contact. ICAO Annex 10 Vol. II – Aeronautical Telecommunications, includes standards and recommended practices for aircraft experiencing communications failure. It offers a variety of guidance including attempting to establish contact with the aeronautical station on another frequency appropriate for the route, attempting contact with another aircraft, or attempting contact with a different aeronautical station. It also includes procedures for transmitting in the blind, and transponder operation (setting the transponder to Mode A Code 7600). Indeed, multiple air traffic services communications frequencies are published on high altitude charts along an airway. Frequencies for different sectors and altitudes of the same Area Control Center are listed. In remote regions, many times ARINC HF frequencies are listed as well. In addition, many aircraft are equipped with CPDLC or SATCOM that can be used as another form of communication with ATC. At this time, what actions the Legacy crew took, other than those listed above, to re-establish communications with ATC have not been released.

    Although the investigation is far from complete, this accident highlights the fact that U.S. flight crews operating internationally must be familiar with and adhere to ICAO Annexes and recommended practices, as well as the applicable rules for each specific region or State.

  • Norman Kemble

    Home at Last?
    First let me say that the anticipated release of the pilots is overdue and welcome. For those of you on this board that seek answers to the questions of why this happened, how it can be fixed and to make sure that it doesnˢ۪t happen again I am attaching the following. This will explain in clearer terms why I have posted the questions and voiced the opinions that have appeared here. I doubt that it will please the few xenophobes, excel and their backers. But it will show that the accident was not solely the cause of the Brazilian ATC.

    American pilots may have relied on U.S. rather than International procedures for lost communications

    Sao Paulo, Brazil À¢€“ Two American pilots detained in Brazil since a tragic midair collision that left 154 dead may have followed U.S. rules rather than International procedures governing lost communications

    The investigation, conducted under the authority of the Brazilian Aeronautical Accident Prevention and Investigation Center (DIPAA) with assistance from a U.S. team including members from the NTSB, FAA, Boeing, and Honeywell, is focusing on why the two aircraft were at the same altitude on the same airway, why there was no indication from either aircraftˢ۪s Traffic Collision Avoidance System, and why the Legacy jet experienced a loss of communication with Brazilian air traffic control (ATC).

    According to information disseminated by the NTSB on behalf of the Brazilian government, the two Legacy pilots, both from Long Island, experienced a loss of radio communications with Brazilian ATC about 40 minutes after their departure from Prof. Urbano Ernesto Stumpf airport, San Jose dos Campos, Brazil (SBSJ).

    At the time of the loss of communications, the Legacy jet was established in cruise on airway UW2, about 40 nautical miles south of BRS (Brasilia VOR) at flight level 370. At that point, UW2 has a magnetic course of 006 degrees, and FL370 complied with the hemispheric rule for cruising levels and agreed with the Legacyˢ۪s filed flight plan.

    According to the Legacyˢ۪s flight plan, the aircraftˢ۪s initial cruise altitude was filed as FL370, with a planned change to FL360 at BRS, and to FL380 at the TERES navigational fix, approximately 282 miles north of BRS. The descent to FL360 after passing BRS was because the magnetic course of airway UW2 inbound to BRS was 006 degrees and the magnetic course of airway UZ6 outbound from BRS was 336 degrees. The Legacy jet crossed BRS at FL370 and remained at that altitude until the collision occurred approximately 460 nautical miles north northwest of BRS on airway UZ6.

    Under U.S. Federal Aviation Regulations (14 CFR Section 91.185), aircraft experiencing two-way radio communications failure are to fly the highest of three possible flight levels: the level assigned in the last ATC clearance received, the minimum level for instrument operations, or the level ATC has advised may be expected in a further clearance. Using this guidance, itˢ۪s understandable why the Legacy crew stayed at FL370 contrary to the hemispheric rule and the filed flight plan.

    In contrast, International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Annex 2, Rules of the Air, specifies that aircraft experiencing communications failure are to fly the last assigned speed and level, or the minimum flight altitude if higher, for a period of 7 minutes and thereafter adjust level and speed in accordance with the filed flight plan. Following this guidance, 7 minutes after the Legacy pilots determined they had a communications failure, and after passing BRS, they would have descended to FL360 in compliance with ICAO rules and their filed flight plan. This would have positioned the Legacy 1000 feet below the opposite direction Gol 737 on airway UZ6.

    These variations in regional procedures can be confusing and complex. Although ICAO is working with member States to harmonize procedures worldwide, progress is incremental and slow, with much work still to be done. In the meantime, many U.S. pilots who fly internationally are unfamiliar with the ICAO Annexes, standards and recommended practices (SARPS), and regional procedures that govern their actions, even though compliance with them is mandatory. A little known but critical reference to ICAO procedures is contained in U.S. Federal Aviation Regulation 14 CFR Subpart H, Section 91.703, and entitled À¢€œOperations of civil aircraft of U.S. registry outside of the United States.À¢€Â It states clearly that each person operating a civil aircraft of U.S. registry outside of the United States shall, À¢€œwhen within a foreign country, comply with the regulations relating to the flight and maneuver of aircraft there in force.À¢€Â

  • Simpleton

    Kind of missed it in the first read of this article and I’m really bad with remembering names, is SayÀƒ£o the Federal Police chief or a federal judge in the state of Mato Grosso, or both?

  • Simpleton

    Que hora
    I know, I know – Wait. Everything takes time.


    a) testing of the transponder by the manufacturer under the supervison of the investigating team does not turn up any problems


    b) the model does not have any non-volatile memory for fault code storage that includes some kind of internal clock timestamp in it’s records, (Note: It has to be an internal clock timestamp as your basic TCAS / ACAS version 7 transponder does not get time from another aircraft source – they only get altitude data from the same systems the flight recorders get it from which apparently showed consistent continuous level flight at 37K.)


    c) said non-volatile storage does not include records as to when the unit was turned on / off that can be correlated to the last in-air power on segment


    d) the pilots are not fully proven innocent of anything.

    Guess someone has explained to the judge that taking the device to the manufacturer for extensive testing (finally) is very critical to the overall investigation but that there is little chance it will produce a smoking gun to convict the prisoners. I am sad that being able to interview the controllers has taken so long so he has been unable to finish the questioning of the pilots but I recind my prior recommendations to send the controllers to Rio to help them get well. Dengue is back and I fear for friends and aquaintances there.

  • Stephen

    Yahoo !!!
    Finally some clear thinking and good judgment!! The Federal Police should be commended for the professional considerations.

  • I Love Brazil

    Its about time!

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