Legacy pilots again to answer negligence charge in Brazilian courts
The Regional Federal Tribunal (TRF) for the 1st Region, located in Brasilia, yesterday overturned the decision by the court of Sinop-MT that had absolved the North American pilots of the Legacy jet, involved in the accident with the Gol Boeing in December (sic) of 2006. With the decision, they should answer in court to the accusation of negligence for not having activated a control that would have indicated the communications failure during the course of the flight. The two aircraft were flying over the Serra do Cachimbo mountains when they collided near Mato Grosso, resulting in the deaths of 154 people.
The opinion judging the appeal brought by the Federal Prosecutors' Office, authored by appeals judge Cândido Ribeiro, was agreed to unanimously by the three-judge chamber. In his justification, the magistrate affirmed that "the Legacy's pilots were conscious of the radio communication failure and had doubts as to the functioning of the transponder (device which shows the aircraft's position on radar"). Riberio also remembered the fact that the pilots had ignored the established flight plan. “They knew one truth: they were flying at 37,000 feet, although the flight plan established by Embraer to Brasilia stipulated 36,000 feet”, he said.
“I leave with the conviction that justice is beginning to be realized in this case, since the appeal was reversed and points to all of the pilots' responsibility and negligence in relation to the communications failure with the control towers", emphasized the lawyer for the victims of the aviation disaster, Dante D'Aquino.
D’Aquino claims that the courts must act with agility for the crime to not end in impunity. “There are still eight witnesses left to be heard outside of Brazil and we have a long collection of proof ahead. Therefore, the risk is very high", he evaluates, on remembering the that deadline for punishment expires in July of 2011, taking into account the date the indictment was received. The minimum penalty is four years.
The two pilots involved are in the United States and still answer in the 1st Federal Court of Sinop for the accusation of an attack on the safety of the country's air transport. Defense lawyer Théo Dias believes that the TRF's decision was incorrect. "I believe that his accusation doesn't proceed, but this will be demonstrated with evidence during the trial. What the pilots are interested in demonstrating is that the incident derived from systemic and individual failures in the air traffic control system", he said.
The tragedy between the Gol Boeing and the Legacy jet happened at the beginning of the country's aviation crisis. The episode helped reveal grave problems in air traffic control and danger in the air routes, the majority of which were concentrate at Congonhas Airport (SP). In December of the year of the accident, airports registered more than an hour's delay for 55.2% of flights.