Brazil Files New Indictment Against NY Pilots

By: Stan Lehman, Associated Press Email
By: Stan Lehman, Associated Press Email

SAO PAULO (AP) - Brazilian prosecutors filed a new indictment Thursday against two New York pilots whose small jet was involved in one of Brazil's worst air disasters, the pilots' attorney said.

The new indictment charges the pilots with flying at the wrong altitude and with failing to turn on the aircraft's anti-collision system, attorney Joel Weiss said.

Weiss called the charges "utter and complete nonsense."

Pilots Joseph Lepore of Bay Shore, New York, and Jan Paladino of Westhampton Beach, New York, were accused of contributing to the Sept. 29, 2006 crash of a Brazilian passenger jet that killed 154 people.

Their Embraer Legacy jet, operated by ExcelAire Service Inc. of Ronkonkoma, New York, collided with a Boeing 737 operated by Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes SA. The Boeing 737 crashed in the Amazon jungle, killing all aboard.

One of the charges in the new indictment says the two pilots were not authorized to use "reduced vertical separation minimum," or RVSM, a procedure that decreases the vertical distance between aircraft from 2,000 feet (610 meters) to 1,000 feet (305 meters), Weiss said.

"Our guys were definitely authorized to do that," he said.

He also denied that Lepore and Paladino did not turn on the Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System, or TCA, adding he was confident the judge "will dismiss these specifications before trial." The judge has not yet received the indictment.

Telephone calls to the prosecutors who filed the new indictment went unanswered.

Weiss said earlier charges that the two pilots failed to follow a filed flight plan and operated the plane in a state of lost communications - contained in a separate indictment - have been dismissed.

There are currently two indictments pending: the one filed Thursday and one that charges the pilots failed to monitor the TCAS system, Weiss said.

In December 2008, a Brazilian Air Force report found that the two pilots may have contributed to the crash by inadvertently turning off the plane's transponder and collision-avoidance system.

But the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board blamed the collision mostly on systematic shortcomings in Brazil's air traffic control system.

The crash was Brazil's worst air disaster until a jet ran off a slick runway less than a year later at Sao Paulo's domestic airport and burst into flames, killing 199 people.


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