What's Next For Legacy Pilots?

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As Joe Lepore and Jan Paladino made their way back to the U.S. late Friday -- by private jet to avert Brazilian journalists who booked commercial flights to New York trying to corner the pair -- their supporters were trying to figure out just what legal consequences they might face. Joe Sharkey, the New York Times columnist who was on the Legacy during the midair collision, wrote on his blog last week that the foundation for the nebulous charges is that the pilots didn't ensure their transponder was working. According to a news release issued by the Brazilian federal police, the charges are based on "elements of proof existing in the police inquiry, which point to the lack of the caution that is necessary, expected, and can be demanded of pilots during the realization of a flight." The alleged intermittent transponder, which Sharkey says hasn't been proven to be inoperable at the time of the collision, is one of the mysteries that has yet to be resolved in the investigation. What has been revealed, however, is that Brazilian air traffic control has significant gaps, is understaffed and is in a political and organizational turmoil. The pilots have consistently denied any wrongdoing in the collision, in which a winglet on their aircraft is believed to have contacted the 737's wing, causing it to fail. Initial reports blamed the pilots but subsequent investigations have been much less clear as to how the two aircraft, under air traffic control, ended up on a collision course at the same altitude of 37,000 feet.