IFALPA Blasts Brazilian Indictment of Pilots, Controllers in Midair

June 6, 2007 - The International Federation of Air Line Pilots Associations issued a statement on June 4 saying that IFALPA “is astounded” by the recent decision of Judge Murilo Mendes of the Brazilian Federal Court to indict Joseph Lepore and Jan Paladino, the pilots of the Embraer Legacy business jet that collided with a Gol Airlines B-737-800 over the Brazilian jungle in September 2006.

Judge Mendes indicted the two pilots, plus four Brazilian air traffic controllers, under section 261 of the Brazilian Penal Code for “placing a vessel or aircraft in jeopardy.”

IFALPA said the judge’s decision to proceed with the indictment “flies in the face of international best practice as the charges…are solely based on an incomplete and non-technical investigation by the Policia Federal.”

The international association added that it “strongly insists that the principles of just culture as laid down in Attachment E of ICAO Annex 13 [which deals with accident investigation] hold that there should be no criminal liability without intent to do harm. Brazilian law must respect this fundamental principle in all cases.”

No factual evidence has been offered to support the notion that the Legacy crew had any intent to place their aircraft, or the Gol airliner, in danger. Therefore, said IFALPA, “there should be no basis for prosecution under Brazilian law and therefore Judge Mendes’ ruling is flawed and counterproductive to the improvement of [aviation] safety.”

IFALPA called on the Brazilian Ministry of Justice to “comply with the guidance of ICAO Annex 13 concerning post-accident prosecution and to correct this unwarranted and premature action by overturning the indictments until the findings of the technical investigation are reported by Cenipa (Centre for the Investigation and Prevention of Aeronautic Accidents).”