U.S. Pilots Home but Charged by Brazilian Police

 - December 13, 2006, 6:13 AM

Less than one day after a joint letter from the NBAA and several other associations was sent to Brazilian prosecutors thanking them for their part in getting the “criminal authority” to release two U.S. corporate pilots, Brazilian federal police on Friday charged the two airmen with “endangering air safety” in the September 29 collision of their Embraer Legacy 600 with a Gol Airlines 737. All 154 people on the 737 were killed when the airliner crashed in the Amazon jungle. The charges against Joseph Lepore, 42 (pictured at bottom) and Jan Paladino, 34 (pictured at top), both of whom fly for Ronkonkoma, N.Y.-based charter firm ExcelAire, carry a maximum penalty of 12 years. The pilots’ lawyer in Brazil condemned the federal police’s decision to indict his clients, saying the charges are “absurd.” Under Brazilian law, a judge will decide whether to indict the pilots. That could take weeks or months. Meanwhile, after their 71-day detainment in Brazil, the two pilots returned to Long Island MacArthur Airport Saturday afternoon–via a Legacy 600.