Brazil Investigators: U.S. Pilots Didn’t Turn Off Transponder

 - December 6, 2007, 11:33 AM

Brazilian authorities have continually blamed ExcelAire pilots Joe Lepore and Jan Paladino for a midair between their Legacy 600 and a Gol Airlines Boeing 737-800 over the Amazon Jungle, alleging that the crew didn’t follow an approved flight plan and had somehow disengaged the Legacy’s transponder. The U.S. pilots’ lawyers dispute these claims, and a recent statement by CENIPA, Brazil’s aviation accident investigation agency, seems to back the U.S. pilots. In a statement released to Brazilian news agencies, CENIPA ruled out the possibility that the transponder was placed into standby mode accidentally, adding that “up to now, there are no indications that there occurred an intentional act on the part of the crew” to turn off the transponder. CENIPA has yet to issue its final report on the accident, which killed all 154 aboard the airliner. Meanwhile, a Brazilian appellate court late last week ruled 2-1 that Lepore and Paladino can’t testify via video from the U.S. Defense lawyers are now appealing this decision with Brazil’s Superior Tribunal of Justice.