American Pilots Sentenced to Community Service After Conviction for Negligence in 2006 Brazil Crash
On Sept. 29, 2006, Joseph Lepore of Bay Shore, NY and Jan Paul Paladino of Westhampton Beach, NY, were flying a new Embraer Legacy 600 jet (N600XL) on a delivery flight from the Sao Paulo factory to Miami for their employer, ExcelAire, when the plane’s left wing hit the tail of Gol Airlines Flight 1907, a Boeing 737-800. The airliner, enroute to Rio de Janeiro from Manaus, Brazil, plummeted into the jungle, killing all on board, while the Embraer managed to land safely at a Brazilian military base.
Brazilian authorities claimed the Embraer pilots were flying at an altitude of 37,000 feet rather than an even numbered flight level as is customary for northbound flights. They also accused the Americans of disabling the aircraft’s transponder and Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS), which would have alerted the pilots of both aircraft that a collision was imminent.
Lepore and Paladino fled Brazil as soon as they were released from military custody, and have not returned to South America since. It is not clear how their community service would be enforced. Their lawyer, Joel Weiss, told Flight Global that they would appeal the judge’s ruling, explaining “This single count guilty verdict is in error, and we will certainly appeal. It is based on a misunderstanding of the pilots dialogue in the cockpit in American idiom, which was ‘lost in translation’, and inadequate consideration of an expert report we submitted on this issue.”
Air traffic controllers who were handling the flight were also charged in the incident, but have not yet been sentenced.