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January 13, 2010

Long Island Pilots May Still Face Trial After Brazilian Court Overturns Their Acquittal

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Embraer Legacy 600 N600XL winglet and horizontal stabilizer

The left winglet and left tip of the horizontal stabilizer on this Embraer Legacy 600 (reg N600XL) were sheared off when they impacted the wing of a Gol Airlines 737-800 (reg PR-GTD) which crashed in the Amazon.

A Brazilian court on Tuesday threw out another judge’s acquittal of two American pilots involved in the 2006 crash of Gol Flight 1907, which killed 154 people. Today’s ruling allows prosecutors to charge the pilots with negligence for their role in the accident.

On Sept. 29th, 2006, Joseph Lepore and Jan Paladino, both of Long Island, New York, were piloting the Embraer Legacy 600 business jet (reg N600XL) that collided with a Gol Airlines 737-800 (reg PR-GTD) 37,000 feet above the Amazon rain forest. The Embraer suffered minimal damage to a winglet and the horizontal stabilizer, while the Boeing lost half of its left wing, broke up in the air and plummeted to the ground. All 148 passengers and six crewmembers aboard the Boeing were killed. The two pilots and five passengers on the Embraer were uninjured.

Brazilian prosecutors had accused the Embraer’s crew of turning off the plane’s transponder and flying recklessly during the delivery flight to America, while the pilots’ defense claimed that it was in fact Brazilian air traffic controllers who put the two planes on a collision course. After months of detention following the crash, being allowed to return home and then later returning to Brazil for further legal wrangling, the charges against Lepore and Paladino were dismissed in 2008.

Investigations of the crash by Brazilian and American aviation safety authorities reached contradictory conclusions. The report published by Brazil’s CENIPA placed the blame squarely on the shoulders of the Embraer crew, while the U.S. NTSB cited inadequacies in Brazil’s air traffic control system.

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