Brazilian who traveled on Legacy tells how Boeing accident was
Ex-employee of Embraer left upstate SP and moved to the USA.
To Fantástico, he remembered how the crew reacted to the tragedy with the Boeing.
By G1, with information from Fantástico
Three years and seven months after surviving one of the worst tragedies in the history of Brazilian aviation, Daniel Bachmann decided to break his silence. The ex-employee of Embraer was on the Legacy jet that collided over the Amazon forest with a Gol Boeing that was going from Manaus to Brasilia. The accident, which occurred on September 19, 2006, left 154 dead.
The plane was piloted by Americans Joe Lepore and Jan Paul Paladino. Bachmann was accompanying the clients and an American reporter on the delivery of yet another Embraer business jet. He and the others who were traveling on the aircraft did not see when the Boeing 737 that was coming in the opposite direction hit the left wing of the Legacy 600. “What the devil was that?”, said one of the pilots. The question was preserved on the voice recordings of everything that happened in the cockpit during the trip.
The Embraer ex-employee said that he did not imagine at that moment that the problem had been caused by a collision. They only thought of surviving. "There was the sound of an alarm, the map had fallen on the floor. That was when we looked out the window and saw a piece of wing missing." In the following minutes, from the passenger cabin, Bachmann saw a sudden change of command. It was the first time that Joe Lepore piloted a Legacy. "The co-pilot said: ‘Then I'll take over’".
Jan Paul Paladino prepared for an emergency landing and everyone prepared to die. "The wing was opening, the sheet on the top was coming up, the rivets were coming out and fuel was running over the wing", the Brazilian remembered. The improvised decent at the Serra do Cachimbo air base was wobbly and shortly after the landing the news of the tragedy arrived.
Bachmann moved from São José dos Campos, in upstate São Paulo, where Embraer's headquarters is, to the small town of Owasso, in the state of Oklahoma, in the coumtryside of the United States. It was in his family's new home that Bachmann received Fantástico for an exclusive interview. Married, three children, he wants to start life over.
In Brazil, he did not feel free to give an interview. He remembered the accident all the time, had cardiac problems and was worried about winding up as a scapegoat, especially after Congressmen said that he had lied to defend the pilots.
“I don't know the specific details of the procedures each pilot does. When I arrived, the airplane was running, ready to take off and I was getting on board along with the clients", he said. Despite this, Bachmann evaluates the communications problems between the Legacy's cockpit and the Brasilia airport tower (sic). “Perhaps, during the communication that they (pilots) had, when they received from Brasilia "maintain", they interpreted it as maintaining the order they received in São José to go to Manaus at 37,000”.
“Maintain”, according to the pilots' interpretation, was to maintain the altitude of 37,000 feet on the leg between Brasilia and Manaus. But "maintain", according to the controller, was to maintain the original flight plan and to change altitude, which would have removed the Legacy from the Boeing's path. The ex-employee reveals that the failures persisted to the last minute. "There was also a communications failure between the controller of the Serra do Cachimbo tower and the pilot. A question of English and of measurement, the length: 2600 feet or 2600 meters of runway, then the pilot had to assume the shorter of the two, in doubt", he said.
Pilots Joseph Lepore and Jan Paul Paladino were accused for a series of incompetencies and negligences during the flight procedure. In the Brazilian courts, they were even absolved in the trial court and were greeted as heroes in the United States. But the Association of Relatives and Friends of Victims managed to reverse the decision on appeal and further asked for a new technical examination of the airplane's black boxes. And the result led to the opening of a new legal case against the American pilots.
According to expert Roberto Petrarka, the Legacy's black box revealed that they never even turned on a piece of equipment that's fundamental for flying, known as the T-CAS. The T-CAS is an anti-collision system and the pilot's sight. At velocities and high velocities, the pilot's vision can't manage to see another plane coming. And the T-CAS does this in 360 degrees, from any position that the airplane is coming, that could signify a risk of collision.
Inside the cabin, one of the positions came to ask if the T-CAS was turned off. “Turned off”, the other confirmed. And the Legacy's black box registers from the aircraft's movement on the ground to moments before the collision.
In April of this year, the information of the new expert exam were sent to the agency which controls American civil aviation, the FAA, with a request that Lepore and Paladino have their pilots' licenses cancelled. The body's response was that it would take no measures in relation to the two pilots.
In October of 2009, another two American pilots had their licenses immediately suspended by the same body, because they passed the landing position and continued another 230 kilometers because they were completely distracted.
“The 154 people who died are nobody?”, asked Roseane, relative of one of the victims. Rosane's husband was aboard the Gol Boeing. The couple's daughter, who is now 7 years old, still keeps his cologne and slippers in the corridor. “This wound will only close when those responsible for these deaths pay in the form of the law for this crime they committed.”
Only 23 of the 154 families have still not reached an settlement over the indemnification for the tragedy. If they are convicted, the penalty for Jan Paul Paladino and Joe Lepore is from one to three years of detention.