A federal court in Brazil ordered that the passports of the two American pilots be returned to them in 72 hours. The pilots, Joe Lepore, 42 and Jan Paladino, 43, both of Long Island, are expected home on Saturday.
The three-member court ruled unanimously in Brasilia that the passports be released. The investigations into the Sept. 29 mid-air collision that killed 154 continue, though now with a very sharp focus on air-traffic control human errors and systemic failures. The pilots must return to Brazil if ordered for further quesioning or judicial proceedings, the court said.
The American pilots have been held in Brazil for 67 days, without being charged and without any evidence of charges. They are at the JW Marriott hotel in Rio de Janeiro, largely confined to their suite.
So it looks like this ordeal is finally being resolved. More tomorrow, of course. But let's end this with a perfectly Brazilian comment following the main news story on the English-language Brazzil.com.
(As has been reported here numerous times, Brazilian air traffic controllers, upset at the possibility of being blamed for the crash and at what they call unsafe working conditions, began a work-to-rule protest in October that has caused chronic delays and flight cancellations at airports throughout the country.)
A reader who uses the name GRingo says at the end of the story on Brazzil.com tonight about the pilots' imminent release:
"I think it's good news that the pilots will finally be allowed to leave. However, finding a flight out may prove difficult given that airports are now closing! SP, BH and Brasilia. It´s going to get uglier before it gets any better. My money is on a full blown ATC meltdown before the year´s end. And Pires is still grumbling away that there are no problems. Me poupem!"
Wonderful Waldir Pires, come on out here and take a bow.