Transcript Supports Pilots In Brazil Collision

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The full cockpit voice recorder transcript from the Embraer Legacy bizjet that collided with an airliner over Brazil last Sept. 29 appears to support the pilots’ contention that they were following normal procedures. The airplane’s winglet clipped a GOL Airlines Boeing 737 at 37,000 feet, and the Boeing crashed, killing all 154 on board. In February, Brazilian authorities leaked excerpts of the transcript, which suggested the pilots, Jan Paladino and Joe Lepore, of Long Island, N.Y., were not competent to fly the twinjet because they couldn’t figure out how to program the flight management system, a fundamental skill required to fly most advanced glass cockpit aircraft. The full transcript reveals it was the airplane’s entertainment system that was puzzling them at the time of the collision, something experts interviewed by Newsday said would be a normal distraction for pilots cruising at 37,000 feet under air traffic control.

The transcript also shows the pilots stuck mainly to business during the flight, talking about fuel management, the weather and discussing the details of their next landing. "I am not in any way critical of the way that that crew handled themselves," John M. Cox, president of Safety Operating Systems in Washington, D.C., and a former safety official at the Air Line Pilots Association, told Newsday. "They talk quite a bit about fuel planning; they're not talking about how the Yankees did. I think the Brazilian air traffic control system has a problem." The transcript indicates Brazilian controllers didn't try to contact the Legacy until a few minutes before the crash. Poor radio reception was also a factor. But a Swiss expert, working for a law firm that is representing families of those killed aboard the airliner, says the pilots weren't as ready as they should have been for the flight. "A first impression was the pilots were not very well trained with the airplane," Hans-Peter Graf, a former investigator in charge at the Swiss Aircraft Accidents Investigation Bureau who is working for the law firm said. "They were not totally prepared to do the flight."