Police Blame Pilots For Brazil Collision

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Brazilian police say the failure of two New York pilots to notice that the transponder aboard their Embraer Legacy 600 bizjet was not working amounts to the criminal offense of "placing a vessel or aircraft in jeopardy" and are, according to a Brazilian newspaper, recommending prosecution. Joe Lepore and Jan Paladino were delivering the Legacy from the factory to their employer, ExcelAire of New York, last Sept. 29 when the left winglet and part of the tail struck a Gol Airlines Boeing 737-800. The airliner crashed, killing all 154 onboard, while Paladino and Lepore were able to land the damaged Embraer at a military base in the Amazon jungle. The pilots have steadfastly maintained (and radio transcripts appear to support) that they were at the altitude assigned by air traffic control. The International Airline Pilots Association is criticizing the report, noting that gaping hole in the evidence and also pointing out that the charges belie the fundamental legal tenet that there must be criminal intent involved. "As there does not seem to be any factual support for a finding that there was any intent by the Legacy crew to place their aircraft in danger, there should be no basis for prosecution under Brazilian law," IALPA said in a news release. Meanwhile ExcelAire, Embraer and Honeywell, which made the transponder, are squabbling over whether the device was faulty. Honeywell steadfastly claims that the transponder in the Legacy was fully functional during the accident flight. The pilots have said they'll return to Brazil to face the charges, and there's also a report that the Brazilian Congress wants them to testify before a commission studying the accident.