U.S. Pilots Convicted In Brazil

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The two pilots who were flying an Embraer Legacy 600 jet that collided with a Boeing 737 at 37,000 feet above the Amazon jungle in 2006 were convicted of negligence in a Brazilian court late on Monday. The judge said the pilots, Joseph Lepore and Jan Paul Paladino, failed to adequately check that their transponder was working. Federal judge Merilo Mendes gave them a four-year sentence, but then suspended it and instead required them to do four years of community service in the U.S., where they have been since shortly after the accident. The two pilots testified during the trial via video link. Mendes also suspended their pilot certificates for four years. It's not clear whether those suspensions can be enforced.

An NTSB investigation into the crash found Brazil's air traffic controllers mainly at fault, for putting the two airplanes on a collision course. A Brazilian investigation parceled out blame to both ATC and the cockpit crew. All 154 people on board the 737 died. The Legacy jet was damaged but the pilots managed to land it safely at a remote jungle airfield. A lawyer for the pilots said he would appeal the ruling in Brazil's courts, according to the Associated Press. A lawyer representing the families of those who died also said he would appeal, to seek prison time for the pilots.

AVweb's Russ Niles spoke with New York Times columnist Joe Sharkey, who was onboard the Legacy at the time of the collision, in 2007; click here for that podcast. Editorial director Paul Bertorelli expressed his opinion of Brazil's 2008 investigation that blamed the Legacy pilots; click here for that blog post.