Criminal Culpability for Role in Gol 737 Disaster

American pilots sentenced in midair case.

Gol Crash

Gol Crash

A computerized recreation of the midair
collision between a Brazilian Gol airliner and
an Embraer Legacy business jet a split
second before impact. The 737 subsequently
crashed, killing all 154 aboard. The pilots of the
Legacy successfully landed their crippled jet.

A judge in a Brazilian court has sentenced the American pilots of an Embraer Legacy bizjet, Joseph Lepore and Jan Paul Paladino, to more than four years behind bars for their role in the 2006 crash of a Gol 737 that killed all 154 aboard the airliner when it crashed in the jungles of Brazil. All seven aboard the bizjet survived after the pilots made an emergency landing. In making his ruling, the judge claimed that the pilots failed to confirm that their airplane’s transponder had been working. Honeywell, the company that manufactured the equipment, said it had seen no evidence of a transponder malfunction.

But the judge’s sentence, as you might have heard, is all the more remarkable for the circumstances of the accident.

The NTSB in its findings said that the accident was caused by the Brazilian controllers/air traffic control system handling the flight, putting the airliner and the business jet at the same altitude, 37,000 feet. In the collision, the Legacy had its wingtip and left side elevator ripped off, but the pilots heroically managed to land the crippled jet, saving seven lives in the process, a little told tale and one not mentioned by the judge.

In his ruling the judge commuted the sentences of the two pilots to community service in the United States, citing their lack of other “criminal” conduct.