U.S. airline pilot groups and the Flight Safety Foundation recently began calling for the release of the two American pilots, Joseph Lepore and Jan Paladino, flying the Embraer Legacy that was involved in the Brazilian midair accident. Now the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and National Business Aviation Association have joined in that chorus. On Tuesday, NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen sent a letter to Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva calling for the immediate return of the pilots. "It is our understanding that the pilots and their attorneys have fully cooperated with investigators from your government. Yet, despite their cooperation, the pilots are being held in contravention of internationally recognized practices and with no date certain for their release," Bolen wrote. "This is an unacceptable situation that must not continue. Based on the public reports of the accident, it is clear there was no intentional wrongdoing in this case. Preventing the pilots from returning to the United States is neither appropriate nor beneficial to the investigation."
AOPA President Phil Boyer pleaded the case to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Wednesday, asking for her to intervene in the matter. "To date, the pilots have been detained for more than seven weeks without criminal charges or explanation," Boyer wrote. "It appears from media reports that the accident investigation could take another ten months to complete, placing these U.S. pilots in jeopardy of being detained indefinitely." He concluded, "These U.S. citizens should be treated fairly under the law, and the U.S. State Department must take action to obtain their release and their return to the U.S. AOPA urges you to intervene with the Brazilian government to facilitate the release of these Americans to allow them to return home safely."