Legacy pilots should answer for crime, says report author
Brazilian Air Force concluded that Americans turned off transponder, device that could have avoided Gol accident
Denise Madueño - O Estado de S. Paulo
BRASILIA - The report editor of the Aviation Blackout Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry (CPI) in the House, congressman Marco Maia (PT-RS), said this Saturday, December 6, that the confirmation that the Legacy pilots had turned off the transponder - which would have been the principal cause of the second worst disaster in the history of Brazilian aviation, on September 29, 2006 - only reinforces the need for Joseph Lepore and Jan Paladino to be held criminally responsible for the accident with Gol Flight 1907, which left 154 dead.
O Estado revealed that the Air Force has already concluded, and will release this week, that the transponder, equipment which could have avoided the collision with the Gol Boeing, was turned off by the hand of one of the pilots seven minutes after the aircraft flew over Brasilia. The equipment was only turned back on three minutes after the collision with the Gol aircraft whe the Americans perceived that it was in standby. "During the CPI we had already indicated that the turning off of the transponder was one of the causes of the accident. The Air Force report only comes to confirm that those principally responsible for the accident were the Legacy pilots and that they have to be held responsible for an intentional crime ["crime doloso"]", said Maia.
Another member of the CPI, congressman Rodrigo Rocha Loures (PMDB-PR), argued that the Brazilian government, as it had made an effort to bring fugitive banker Salvatore Cacciola back to the country, it should make an effort to bring the pilots responsible for the tragedy back to Brazil to answer for the accident. Loures recalled that Lepore and Paladino refused to provide clarification to the Brazilian courts and that they also did not appear before the CPI.
"This defense strategy (that of not appearing) is a sign that they are not ready to provide an account of what they did on that flight. It's a very strong signal that they have not spoken the whole truth", said the member of the PMDB party. "In my opinion, they are the ones to blame, despite the fact that a tragedy is not an isolated fact, but rather the sum of errors that lead to a tragedy", Lourdes continued.
For the Congressman, there was carelessness on the part of the pilots, who were unfamiliar with the equipment and with the Brazilian air traffic control system. "At the time, the work already pointed to carelessness by the Americans, a hypothesis which is now confirmed." According to the Congressman, at the time of the Congressional investigations, the CPI had raised the hypothesis that the transponder had been turned off so that the pilots could do acrobatics with the plane. Loures further suggested that the House set up a Congressional group to follow, along with the New York courts, the judgment of the case in the United States.
Another member of the CPI, congressman Gustavo Fruet (PSDB-PR), said that he was not surprised with the Air Force's report. He emphasized that the confirmation that the transponder was turned off has a major impact in the civil courts, besides the criminal. "They may not have had the intention, but they have some blame, which can occur in cases of imprudence, negligence or recklessness. In the civil question, the impact is large and can serve to define who will pay the indemnity to the victims' families", said Fruet.
Uncle of one of the Flight 1907 victims, Jorge André Cavalcanti said this Saturday that the Air Force report only confirms the suspicions they had been working with.
São Paulo, Saturday, December 06, 2008
Legacy pilots turned off transponder, FAB concludes
Air Force final report, which will not indicate guilty parties, will be presented Wednesday
If it had been operating, the equipment would have activated the anti-collision system, able to turn the plane away from any target
The Air Force final report on the accident between the Gol Boeing and the Legacy jet, on September 29, 2006, with 154 dead, is 261 pages and will be presented next Wednesday, clarifying the principal and practically only doubt that remains: the Legacy's transponder was handled incorrectly by the pilots and went into "standby" inadvertently.
If it had been operating normally, the equipment would have avoided the accident, because it is what activates the TCAS, the anti-collision system capable of diverting the airplane from any solid object that is ahead of it, even without the pilots' participation.
It would have been the last chance to avoid the collision, after a series of errors, from carelessness to lack of communication, which the report confirms both on the part of the North American pilots of the Legacy, Joe Lepore and Jan Paladino, as on the part of the controllers at CINDACTA (Integrated Center for Air Defense and Air Traffic Control) in Brasilia and in São José dos Campos (SP), from where the Legacy took off on its maiden flight.
The investigation, under the command of CENIPA (the Center for the Investigation and Prevention of Aeronautic Accidents), was detailed not only in text, but in a minute-by-minute reconstruction of everything that went on with the two aircraft until they collided in midair, over the Cachimbo mountain range, in Mato Grosso. All those aboard the Boeing died. The Legacy managed to land.
The work is more than two hours long and was all done based on data from the black boxes and ground radar. It has already been shown to representatives of the families, who cried during the presentation at Cenipa and were left with one doubt: how long their relatives took to die.
From the moment in which the Legacy cut part of the Boeing's right wing [NT: it was the left wing] until its pieces hit the ground, a minute and four seconds passed. The black box ceased recording the technical data after the first 55 seconds, when the Gol plane had spun around 12 times. To the ground, another 9 seconds passed.
With the force of gravity, besides the strong possibility of having struck their heads, it it unlikely that the victims suffered or had a clear understanding of the tragedy.
One piece of data that the investigation disregarded was the possible existence of a voice or voices on the Boeing's black box. According to what the Folha learned, CENIPA concluded that reproducing the voices would cause additional suffering for the families and would not contribute to the conclusions.
The "animation" is based on three screens, one vertical on the left with the map and the route of the two airplanes. On the right, there are two screens, one on top with the Legacy's movement, and the one on the bottom, with the Boeing. At any doubt the images can be frozen and compared to those of the CINDACTA radars. The Legacy was monitored by five of these radars.
The screen at Cindacta 1, in Brasilia, clearly shows that the circle with a cross in the middle, which indicated the connection with the Legacy's transponder, disappearing. On the same screen, simultaneously, at least a half dozen other symbols were connected and continued connected, including those of two other airplanes.
The Legacy was, at that point, at 55 minutes and 18 seconds from the exact moment of the collision with the Boeing, which was coming in the other direction, starting from Manaus, at the same altitude, 37,000 feet. The transponder was off the radar this whole time and only reappeared after the accident, when Lepore questioned Paladino and the two notice that they were in "standby". The dialog is on the black-box and is one of the most relevant items of information in the report.
The objective of the technical conclusions on aviation accidents is not to punish nor even to blame people, but to identify failings and produce recommendations than can avoid new accidents.