Brazil's House Representative, Vic Pires Franco, believes he has evidence that places most of the blame for Brazil's worst air accident ever squarely on the shoulders of the two American pilots of the Legacy executive jet, which collided with a Boeing 737. sending the 154 people aboard the big jet to their death in the Amazon jungle.
Franco, talking to the House Air Blackout committee in charge of a congressional inquiry probing air traffic in Brazil, presented what he said was a 112-page document containing a transcript from the Legacy's black box.
The transcript, says the representative, shows that the Americans didn't know how to use the Legacy and even confessed they were lost during a stretch of their trip from São José dos Campos in São Paulo to Manaus, the capital of Amazonas state. At 4:36 pm the copilot asks the plane commander where are they to which the pilot responds: "I don't know."
For Franco, who belongs to the DEM party, the documents he obtained change the course of the investigations: "They prove that officials from Embraer (Brazilian Aircraft Manufacturer) helped the pilots to use the plane, they meddled into the cockpit, gave some hints. The pilots didn't know well what they were doing."
According to the new transcript, Joe Lepore, the pilot, after confessing that he is lost decides to snooze. The document shows that at 4:39 pm, 17 minutes before the collision, Lepore tells his copilot Jan Paladino: "I'm gonna take a nap." The catnap lasts until 4:55 pm, just one minute before the accident.
The new information once again raises the possibility that the Legacy had its transponder turned off before the collision occurred.
From the document:Â "At 4:12 pm the copilot (Paladino) asked whether the commander (Lepore) wanted to turn off a certain device. The commander said yes. At 4:59 pm, three minutes after the crash, the copilot finds out that the TCAS (Traffic alert and Collision Avoidance System) is turned off and he orders that it be turned on."
Franco says that the reading of the transcriptÂ made him aware that the US pilots went astray from their course. He told the House committee: "At 4:16 pm, the pilot says, "Let's go a little in that direction." And then a little later he tells to go back to the previous route. Now, if he needed to come back then it means that he wasn't in the right one."
Still according to the congressman, Paladino, the copilot, noticed that there was something wrong with the radio frequency while the pilot took a nap and he tried, unsuccessfully, several times, to contact the Brasília control tower.
"They are crucifying the controllers when the pilots were the ones acting with total imprudence and piloting a plane without having the smallest familiarity with the equipment," said the House representative. And here he added: "Unfortunately, however, these pilots will never again step their feet in Brazil."
Franco says that no air controller can be indicted from culpable homicide (with intention to kill): "Nobody left home that day with the intent to kill 154 people."
Franco also questioned Frederico Curado, the Embraer (the Legacy manufacturer) president over the presence of Embraer officials in the Legacy's cockpit.
According to the transcript, says the legislator, the American pilots, asked at least one Embraer official to give them information on how the airplane worked, evidence that they didn't know how to operate the Legacy.
Curado answered that the company's officials inside the Legacy were from the commercial area. And he continued, "Whether there was any participation by them, I officially ignore."