Tuesday, November 07, 2006

American pilots still stuck in Brazil after mid-air

An Associated Press article on the Airport Business website reminds us that the two American pilots who were involved in a mid-air collision in Brazilian airspace in September are still being prevented from leaving Brazil.

The accident, which happened on September 29, resulted in the crash of a GOL Airlines Boeing 737-800 and killed 154 people. The American pilots were flying an Embraer Legacy 600 business jet. The Legacy was damaged in the collision, but the pilots managed to land the aircraft safely, and all seven aboard the smaller aircraft survived.

The American pilots' passports have been confiscated by Brazilian officials while the accident investigation continues. The AP article says this about the investigation:
Early speculation in Brazil pointed to errors by the U.S. pilots, but the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper reported this week that air traffic controllers were recorded putting them on a collision course with the bigger jet according to a leaked flight recorder transcript.

Brazil's Defense Minister Waldir Pires earlier labeled "irresponsible" the pilots' statements to investigators that they had been flying at the correct altitude.

Brazilians speculated in the media that the pilots had ignored their flight plan and even switched off the new jet's transponder to avoid being tracked as they tested its performance - allegations denied by the pilots.

Now, the probe into the accident has stalled.

The Brazilian Air Force, citing international conventions, has not turned over control tower transcripts to federal police, nor let criminal investigators interview the 10 air traffic controllers working that day. All 10 controllers have been put on paid leave and offered psychological care.
The article goes on to say that the American pilots "have tried to cooperate, and initially did not contest the seizure of their passports, which their Brazilian lawyer said was illegal. Now they are considering legal action to retrieve their passports and leave Brazil."

Their lawyer says that the pilots will not speak publicly about the accident until they have returned to the U.S. Meanwhile, they continue to languish as 'virtual prisoners' in Rio.

Source: U.S. Pilots Involved in Deadly Brazil Air Collision Stuck in Legal, Emotional Limbo - Airport Business

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