Judge Promises April Verdict in Brazil Midair Trial

 - April 5, 2011, 10:13 AM

A Brazilian judge last week heard testimony, via video link, from the two American pilots of the Legacy 600 that was involved in a midair with a Gol Airlines Boeing 737-800 over the Amazon jungle in September 2006. The airliner crashed into the Amazon, killing all 154 aboard, while the Legacy pilots managed to land their damaged twinjet. Joe Lepore and Jan Paladino, who both fly for Long Island, N.Y.-based ExcelAire, face charges under the Brazilian criminal code that they unintentionally caused the endangerment of an aircraft through negligence. Their testimony and that of the two controllers also charged in the case, one already convicted by a military court, was the last step before closing arguments. The judge promised a verdict this month. After the accident the pilots found themselves at the center of a media storm and were unable to leave Brazil for two months. Rather than return to the South American country now, they testified by video link. Although the Legacy’s transponder signal disappeared from radar during the flight, the pilots testified they did not turn it off, and that there was no indication in the cockpit or from ATC of any irregularity. “Criminalization does not improve the safety of the skies nor does it help prevent future accidents,” said ExcelAire CEO Bob Sherry. “Joe Lepore and Jan Paladino are both highly competent, professional pilots who were following the instructions of air traffic control.” The Legacy was purchased by a third party and flown to Constant Aviation for repair and refitting last November.