Brazil Midair: Police Release Preliminary Report

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On Wednesday, a preliminary police report released in Brazil said U.S. pilots Joseph Lepore and Jan Paladino could have prevented the Sept. 29 midair that killed 154 people when the Legacy jet they were flying collided with a Gol Airlines 737 if they had noticed their transponder was turned off, according to The Associated Press. The two men returned home to New York on Dec. 9 after being detained by authorities in Brazil for more than two months. According to the police report, the Legacy's transponder was turned off for at least 50 minutes before the crash and turned on two minutes after, but the report does not determine whether the pilots or the instrument itself failed. Police investigators have asked for an extra 30 days before presenting a final report. A judge will then decide whether an indictment and trial will follow.

Honeywell early in October said that the transponder aboard the Legacy jet was not subject to an airworthiness directive that outlined deficiencies in some models, including their ability to erroneously go into standby mode if the flight crew takes longer than five seconds to change the ATC code. According to an NTSB report, in the last two-way communication the Legacy crew reported that it was at FL370. ATC acknowledged and instructed the crew to "ident." Radar indicates that the ident was observed. But Brazil's ATC software is badly designed, according to the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers Associations (IFATCA). IFATCA believes that operators in the air (the pilots) and on the ground (the controllers) fell victim to systems traps brought on by non-error-tolerant, and poor system design of, air traffic control and flight equipment in use. Presently, Brazilian police allege that pilot negligence contributed to the accident. If a court eventually agrees, then Lepore and Paladino could face up to 12 years in prison.