BRASILIA Dec 9 A judge in Brazil dismissed
negligence charges on Tuesday against two U.S. pilots accused
of having contributed to Brazil's second-worst air disaster
when their executive jet collided in mid-air with a Brazilian
commercial airliner in 2006.
The Boeing 737 operated by Gol (GOLL4.SA) airline crashed
into the jungle from an altitude of 37,000 feet (11,300
metres), killing all 154 people on board.
The smaller Legacy manufactured by Embraer
(EMBR3.SA)(ERJ.N) and operated by Long Island-based ExcelAire
managed an emergency landing with minor damage on a remote
Federal judge Murilo Mendes in the western Mato Grosso
state, where the accident happened, absolved the pilots of
negligence in trying to communicate with the control tower.
But Joseph Lepore and Jan Paul Paladino still face charges
for allegedly putting aviation safety at risk by presenting a
faulty flight plan and deactivating a security mechanism that
could have avoided the collision, the court and the defense
The pilots' lawyers welcomed the ruling but said all
charges should be dropped.
"The prosecutors' charges are entirely inappropriate,"
defense attorney Joel Weiss said. Under an international
convention, criminal charges could be brought on gross
recklessness but not on the ordinary negligence the pilots were
Brazil's Air Force is expected to publish a report on
Wednesday blaming one of the U.S. pilots for having
"inadvertently turned off" the Legacy's transponder, a security
device that warns of an approaching aircraft.
The report is also expected to fault local air traffic
control, which failed to properly advise the Legacy jet on its
cruising altitudes, a local newspaper reported on the weekend.
Local investigators last month blamed government agencies,
pilot error and company policy for a TAM TAMM4.SATAM.N
airliner crash that killed 199 in 2007. [ID:nN19356506]
The occurrence of two major airline accidents within a year
has triggered efforts to reform Brazil's military air traffic
(Reporting by Maria Pia Palermo in Rio de Janeiro, Jonas da
Silva in Mato Grosso and Raymond Colitt in Brasilia)