Brazil judge finds ATCO innocent, slams ATC in Legacy midair

 - June 1, 2011, 5:00 AM

In an astonishing verdict, Brazilian federal judge Murilo Mendes on on May 19 found the air traffic controller most involved in the September 2006 Amazon midair between a Gol Airlines Boeing 737 and an ExcelAire Embraer Legacy 600, Jomarcelo Fernandes dos Santos, innocent because he was "not qualified ... to even come near a console." The judge called for criminal investigation of those who approved Jomarcelo and of those who had found that air traffic control system software placed aviation at risk - and who had then failed to order corrections.

 The software changes aircraft altitudes on the console without the controller's consent, and confused controllers as to the Legacy's true altitude. A second controller was found guilty of "endangering aviation" for failing to program the proper frequencies on his console, which prevented him from hearing twelve calls from the busienss jet in the minutes before the collision.