Three days after a Brazilian federal judge allowed two American pilots to leave the country, the country's federal police have charged them with endangering air safety in the mid-air collision between a business jet they were flying and an airliner. If convicted, they could face up to 12 years in prison.
Joseph Lepore, 42, and Jan Paladino, 34, both of New York state, had returned to the United States after the judge returned their passports on Tuesday. They said they would answer the charges in court.
The two were piloting an Embraer Legacy jet from Brazil to the United States on September 29 at 37,000 feet when the collision occurred with the Gol Airlines Boeing 737. The airliner crashed, killing 154; the Legacy landed safely. Air traffic control transcripts seem to indicate that the business jet had been cleared to Flight Level 370 (37,000 feet), although air traffic controllers reportedly told investigators they thought the jet was at 36,000 feet.
Both AOPA and the International Council of Aircraft Owner and Pilot Associations had appealed for the pilots' release.
December 8, 2006