Brazil Verdict on Legacy Pilots in Two Weeks

 - May 12, 2011, 11:20 AM

Final arguments were delivered yesterday by the defense of Americans Joseph Lepore and Jan Paul Paladino, who piloted the Legacy 600 that collided with a 737-800 over the Amazon in 2006. The airplane was on its delivery flight to ExcelAire of Long Island. The Brazilian airliner crashed with the loss of all 154 aboard, while the Legacy pilots managed to land their damaged jet. Federal judge Murilo Mendes has promised a verdict within the next one to two weeks in the nearly four-year trial, not unusual in the paper-based Brazilian court system. The pilots are charged with endangering the safety of air navigation, and if convicted they could face 21 to 52 months, which would likely be converted to community service in the U.S. Two controllers are also on trial, one of whom was given a 14-month sentence in a separate military court trial while four others were found innocent. The controllers blamed software, which the independent Tribunal of Audit ruled was flawed. The pilots have been vilified in the Brazilian press, which has focused on the Legacy’s transponder being off and its Tcas in standby mode. Defense lawyers say the pilots were following ATC orders and that controllers failed to alert them when their transponder signal disappeared.