Brazil Court Finds U.S. Pilots Guilty in Fatal Midair

 - May 17, 2011, 11:30 AM

American pilots Joseph Lepore and Jan Paul Paladino, whose Legacy 600 collided with a Gol Airlines Boeing 737-800 over the Amazon in September 2006, were found guilty yesterday of failing to verify the functioning of the transponder for over an hour by Brazilian federal judge Murilo Mendes. All 154 aboard the airliner perished in the accident, while Lepore and Paladino were able to land their crippled jet at a Brazilian military airport. The judge commuted a sentence of four years and four months into community service to be performed in the U.S., and he also suspended the pair’s pilot licenses. It is yet unknown whether the Brazilian sentence is even enforceable in the U.S. Lepore and Paladino were found innocent of five of the six charges against them, including failing to follow the flight plan, turning off the transponder and not reacting correctly to a communications failure. Additionally, the judge discarded allegations that the TCAS was never on during the flight, and that the pilots falsely affirmed that the Legacy was authorized to fly RVSM. Judge Murilo issued identical verdicts for pilot-in-command Lepore and copilot Paladino, saying pilots bear equal responsibility for safety. The pilots will appeal the verdict.