U.S. Pilots May Face Charges In Brazil Midair

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Brazilian authorities are contemplating manslaughter charges against two U.S. pilots after details of their aircraft's collision with a GOL Airlines Boeing 737 emerge. The U.S. pilots were able to land their Embraer Legacy 600, which sustained visible damage to a winglet and horizontal stabilizer, at an air force base after the collision at 37,000 feet over the Amazon. The 737 crashed, killing all 155 aboard. Reports out of Brazil Wednesday said authorities in that country are alleging that the Legacy's transponder was turned off (foiling collision-avoidance systems on both aircraft) and the crew did not comply with an air traffic control directive to descend to 36,000 feet. Authorities seized the passports of the American pilots, Joe Lepore and Jan Paladino, as the investigation continues.

The Legacy was new and was being flown from the factory to New York for delivery to its new owner, ExcelAire Service. Jose Carlos Periera, the head of Brazil's airport authority, told Reuters it's not known why the transponder wasn't working but suggested it had been deliberately turned off. "It's very unlikely that a plane leaves the factory with that problem," he said. The NTSB is assisting with the investigation.