Trial Stalled for ExcelAire Pilots
The Brazilian criminal court case against the two U.S. pilots–Joseph Lepore and Jan Paladino–and four air traffic controllers involved in a fatal midair between an ExcelAire Legacy 600 and a Gol Airlines Boeing 737-800 above the Amazon jungle in September 2006 has stalled while a judge decides whether the case will be heard in a military court or a federal criminal court. The conflict about who should hear the case arises from the fact that the air traffic controllers are civilians who function within a military organization. Brazil’s Superior Tribunal of Justice, the highest court for non-constitutional issues, is expected to make that decision next month. Lepore and Paladino, who safely landed their damaged Legacy, face charges under the Brazilian criminal code that they unintentionally endangered an aircraft through negligence by somehow disengaging the transponder. Last month, they spoke to Cenipa investigators for some 20 hours over the course of three days at the NTSB offices in Washington, D.C. Cenipa, Brazil’s aviation accident investigation agency, said inspection of the equipment showed that the transponder was in working order but not operating at the time of the collision. Joel Weiss, the pilots’ lawyer in the U.S., says that they didn’t do anything to turn off the transponder.