Saturday, July 05, 2008

U.S. Court Declines to Hear Amazon Mid-Air Collision Damages Case

A U.S. court has declined to hear liability lawsuits brought by relatives of the 154 victims in the Sept. 29, 2006, mid-air collision over the Amazon between a Brazilian Gol 737 airliner and a Legacy 600 business jet, whose two pilots and five passengers survived the disaster.

(I was one of the passengers).

This means that the civil lawsuits now will be heard in Brazil, where damage awards traditionally are much lower than in American courts.

Meanwhile, the two Legacy pilots, Joe Lepore and Jan Paladino, remain on criminal trial in Brazil, in absentia, on charges cooked up by Brazilian authorities in what I have argued since practically day one is an attempt to cover up manifest errors of the Brazilian Air Force in running the air-traffic control system over the Amazon. Every international pilot I know who flies there says "Beware over the Amazon."

The relatives of the dead sued the following: Excelaire, the Long Island charter company that had just taken delivery that day of the $27 million business jet in Brazil; the pilots, Lepore and Paladino; Honeywell, the supplier of avionics equipment in the Legacy, primarily its transponder and anti-collision warning system; Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and Amazon Tech, all U.S. companies that developed the radar-control system over the Amazon for Brazil (which considers that system part of its national-security apparatus); and a company called ACSS, which actually manufactured the Legacy's transponder.

The U.S. District Court Eastern District declined to hear the case on Wednesday , effectively sending it to Brazil.

As usual, Richard Pedicini in Brazil has been on top of things from Sao Paulo. Here is the text of the U.S. District Court ruling:


Incidentally, the blog I'd previously set aside for my voluminous Brazil posts,, fell into disuse earlier this year through sheer exhaustion. However, anyone interested in the record can look it up, as they say.

As usual, Brazilian media leap to defend the powerful. For example, here's O Estado de Sao Paulo the other day summarizing the Brazilian military and police investigation into the crash, and in failing to address the issue summarily absolving the Brazilian Air Force of blame in a disaster that was triggered and made almost inevitable by operational faults and errors in Brazilian air-traffic control that awful day:

" ... No evidence was found that radar coverage in the area of the accident had an influence in the tragedy -- removing the suspicion of a "black hole" in the region."

Whoa, Scoop: As any reporter -- or cop -- knows, the absence of evidence is not evidence, even in an honest investigation.

O Estado goes on, saying that once the pilots received their order to fly to Manaus at 37,000 feet, on what would be the fatal collision course with the 737:

"It's from that instant on that the air traffic controllers' conduct becomes preponderant for the tragedy. On losing contact with the LEgacy, they should have programmed into their consoles five alternate radio frequencies, which wasn't done, according to the examination done on the equipment. This ... suggest[s] a flaw in the controllers' training. Everything leads to believe that they did not know how to act in these cases."

The Air Force and the authorities, of course, share no blame. Just two straight-arrow American pilots and a handful of low-ranking Brazilian military schlubs who has the misfortune to be on duty that godawful day.


No comments: