Wednesday, August 15, 2007

'Everything Was Not Fine..."

Without comment, here is the transcript of a speech given at the 53rd annual Air Safety and Security Forum of the Air Line Pilots Association International (ALPA) by Joel Weiss, a Long Island lawyer and former prosecutor who is representing Joe Lepore and Jan Paladino. The two falsely accused pilots, who were in attendance at the event last week in Washington, were given a five-minute standing ovation after Mr. Weiss's speech:

"WHAT JAN PALADINO AND JOE LEPORE KNEW WHEN THEY TOOK

OFF ON SEPTEMBER 29 WAS THAT AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL HAD

CHANGED THEIR WRITTEN FLIGHT PLAN., AND CLEARED THEM TO FLIGHT

LEVEL 370 TO EDUARDO GOMES AIRPORT, THEIR DESTINATION.

WHEN THEY CHECKED IN AT BRASILIA CENTER AT 370, THEY THOUGHT,

BECAUSE THEY WERE TOLD, THAT EVERYTHING WAS FINE.

BUT EVERYTHING WAS NOT FINE. WHAT JAN AND JOE DIDN'T


KNOW AND COULDN'T KNOW WAS THIS:



FIRST, AN AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER MONITORING THEM AT

BRASILIA CENTER SAW ON HIS SCREEN "'L 370 = FL 360"; AND FOR

SOME UNKNOWN REASON HE CHANGED THE DATA STRIP TO READ "FL

360 = FL 360." HE THEN WENT OFF DUTY AFTER ERRONEOUSLY

INFORMING HIS RELIEF AND THE AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL SYSTEM THAT


THE LEGACY WAS AT 36,000 FEET AND EVERYTHING WAS JUST FINE.


THE SECOND THING JAN AND JOE DIDN'T KNOW AND WEREN'T

TOLD WAS THAT AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL'S SCREENS HAD NO

TRANSPONDER RETURN ON THEM FOR 55 MINUTES; AND HAD DONE


NOTHING IN RESPONSE TO THAT.

THE THIRD THING THEY DIDN'T KNOW WAS THAT THEY WERE

ENTERING WHAT BRAZILIAN AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS HAVE

DESCRIBED AS A "DEAF, DUMB AND BLIND AREA" WHEREIN RADIO AND


RADAR ARE COMPROMISED.

FINALLY, THEY CRITICALLY AND TRAGICALLY DIDN'T KNOW THAT

AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL HAD CHANGED THE CLEARANCE OF A GOL 7371)

HEADING THEIR WAY, FROM FLIGHT LEVEL 4 .0 TO 370.

THE TWO AIRCRAFT SUFFERED A GLANCING COLLISION, SO LIMITED

THAT NO ONE ON THE LEGACY KNEW JUST WHAT HAD HAPPENED. THEY

WERE ABLE TO MAKE AN EMERGENCY LANDING AT CACHIMBO

MILITARY BASE. UNBEKNOWNST TO THEM, THE GOL 737 HAD GONE

DOWN. HERE IS WHAT PASSENGER AND JOURNALIST JOE SHARKEY SAID

IN AN INTERVIEW:

"WE NEVER SERIOUSLY SPECULATED THAT WE COULD

HAVE BEEN IN A COLLISION WITH A BIG AIRPLANE. IT

WAS SIMPLY AN IMPOSSIBILITY, GIVEN THE FACT THAT

WE SURVIVED. ABOUT THREE HOURS LATER, IN A

DINING HALL, WE DID LEARN THE TRUTH - THAT A 737

HAD GONE DOWN AT THE SAME SPOT. WE STOOD FOR A

MOMENT OF PRAYER. THERE WAS SOBBING. THE

PILOTS WERE DEVASTATED. I'VE NEVER SEEN TWO


MORE ANGUISHED MEN."

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT? JAN AND JOE HAD THEIR PASSPORTS

TAKEN AND WERE TOLD, "DON'T LEAVE TOWN." THIS WENT ON FOR 71

DAYS UNTIL BRAZIL'S FEDERAL COURT DECREED THAT THEIR BEING


DETAINED WAS UNLAWFUL AND THEY COULD LEAVE.

AND NEXT? THEY WERE INDICTED FOR THE CRIMINALLY

NEGLIGENT DESTRUCTION OF AN AIRCRAFT, CAUSING DEATH. THEY ARE


NOW FACING TRIAL AND POTENTIAL IMPRISONMENT. ON THESE FACTS.

HERE IS WHAT YOU, ALPA, SAID IN A JUNE 8 RELEASE IN

RESPONSE TO THIS INDICTMENT:

"THE THREAT OF CRIMINAL PROSECUTION THWARTS

INFORMATION GATHERING AND DATA SHARING, WHICH

FORM THE FOUNDATION OF ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION.

EXPOSING PROFESSIONAL AIRMEN TO PROSECUTION

FOR ALLEGED MISTAKES IS MISGUIDED AND

INCOMPATIBLE WITH PREVENTING FUTURE ACCIDENTS.

`THE BRAZILIAN JUDGE'S ACTION ALSO BLATANTLY

DISREGARDS THE INTERNATIONAL GUIDANCE OF ICAO

ANNEX 131 WHICH STATES THAT "THERE SHOULD BE NO

CRIMINAL LIABILITY WITHOUT INTENT TO DO HARM.'

THE BRAZILIAN JUSTICE SYSTEM IS NOT ACTING IN ITS

COUNTRY'S BEST INTERESTS IF IT FAILS TO RESPECT

INTERNATIONAL PRINCIPLES AGREED TO BY NATIONS

AROUND THE GLOBE."

ONE CAN LOOK AT THE INCIDENTS AND REVELATIONS ABOUT BRAZIL'S

AIR SAFETY SINCE THEN AND SAY: HOW PROPHETIC; AND HOW VERY


SAD.

AS TO JAN AND JOE, THE PERSONAL COST OF CRIMINALIZATION IS

GREAT. IT INVOLVES LOST SLEEP OVER THIS PROSECUTION, INCLUDING

WHETHER BRAZIL, IN CONTRAVENTION OF OUR TREATY, MIGHT TRY TO

EXTRADITE THEM.

ON THE OTHER HAND, THEY HAVE HAD SOME TREMENDOUS

SUPPORT: FROM EXCELAIRE, THEIR EMPLOYER, AND FROM THE AIR

SAFETY AND PILOTS ORGANIZATIONS, NOTABLY YOURS.


YOUR SUPPORT IS PARAMOUNT. YOU ALL DO IMPORTANT,

CRITICAL, AND AT TIMES RISKY woRK. AND AS TO THIS TREND OF

CRIMINALIZATION, YOU ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER.

THE POET, JOHN DONNE, SAID, "NO MAN IS AN ISLAND." SOME OF

YOU MIGHT SIMPLY LOOK AT JAN AND JOE AND SAY, ``THERE BUT FOR

THE GRACE OF GOD GO I."

ON BEHALF OF JAN AND JOE, I EXPRESS THEIR GRATITUDE FOR

YOUR CONTINUING SUPPORT. THANK YOU.

###

7 comments:

Carlos said...

Mr. Sharkey,

1. As several times was said, in all word, when there is suspicion of unskilfulness, incompetence, incapacity, inadequacy and there are fatalities, there is a criminal investigation, even to prove they are innocent. This is the law everywhere, even in US. They where not judged yet, so it’s not possible to say there was injustice, not even that they where “falsely” accused. This is false. There is a suspicion that they operated inappropriately the radio and transponder and underprepared to fly in Brazil airspace. This is under an aeronautical investigation, not concluded. This investigation will give the fundamentals to criminal suit. Even, with no intention, crime is possible to exist, and should be investigated.

2. The accident was indeed in an area that could be “deaf, dumb and blind”, but they lost radio and transponder contact when they were in Brasilia VOR, where they were supposed to descend to FL 360. Brasilia is the capital of Brazil, as you know, and is not in the middle of Amazon. Transponder signal was lost just after they did last radio contact. Honeywell transponder and radio uses the same dialer to adjust frequencies and signals. They are on suspicion, not proved, that they didn’t properly operate this equipment, since the equipment was proved to be ok, although Excelaire had told it was not.

3. They were told to “not leave town”, because they should be heard and they don’t live in Brazil. Aeronautical and criminal investigation should be conducted in Brazil. There is not another possibility. If this accident was in US, with Brazilian pilots, they also would not leaved US until be heard after the initials elements of investigation had been collected.

4. Why this accident happened with you and not with one of the dozens US commercial aircrafts that cross this route every day for years? Just Legacy’s pilots bad luck? This is an important Brazilian route that connects traffic from São Paulo and Rio to Venezuela, Central America, US and Canada, even to Japan thru LA. No one of these aircrafts was put in wrong level, and they know the level they must fly. Legacy's pilots just misunderstood Brasilia instructions, as this became clear hearing voice records. So, they are on suspicion of not been prepared to fly in Brazil airspace.

Best regards.

Cassandra_Moderna said...

Last year, perhaps in October, I read a comment (on an article in brazzil), purportedly written by a commercial pilot, which stated that the onus is on the foreign pilot to become acquainted with the conditions in the countries in which they fly. OK, so where would a pilot go for such information? It seems to me that in the present case, the two American pilots would have had to have relied on Embraer to inform them of the conditions in Brazil. From the very beginning of this tragedy, I found it incredible that two American pilots who did not speak a word of Portuguese and who had never flown in Brazil before were permitted to fly across Brazilian airspace in order to get the plane out of the country. Naturally, this was not a decision that was made by those pilots. After all, they are only employees. We now all know that the existence of deadzones over the Amazon was widely known by commercial pilots. I am completely sure that if the two American pilots had been informed of the deadzones, there was no way in hell that they would have been frigging around with that onboard display system (which is something merely to keep the passengers amused). They would have been focused like lasers on their flying. And, no one can tell me that Embraer was unaware of the deadzones. It has been published that the cockpit of that particular model of Legacy is designed in such a way that a pilot could accidentally turn the transponder off with his/her leg. No pilot should have to be worried about the position of his/her leg while flying. I should like to know Embraer's policy on delivery of its aircraft to its foreign clients. Is there such a policy? Was it followed? If not, why not? Why were the American pilots not informed of the deadzones?

Lopes said...

Cassandra finds it incredible that "two American pilots who did not speak a word of Portuguese and who had never flown in Brazil before were permitted to fly across Brazilian airspace in order to get the plane out of the country." Is she aware that English, for better or worse, is the official language for international air travel? Commercial airline pilots, for example, may fly to Japan one week, to France the next, and to Germany the week after. Does she think they must be fluent in the language of each of these countries? The issue is not whether the two American pilots could speak Portuguese, but whether the two flight controllers could speak English.

And Carlos still wants a criminal investigation even in the absence of any evidence establishing intent. Perhaps it would be helpful to recall the tragic story of Varig flight 254.

Piloted by Captain Cézar Garcez and First Officer Nelson Zille, flight 254 left the Marabá Airport on the 48 minute trip to Belém at 5:35 PM on Sunday, September 3, 1989. Prior to take-off Garcez, perhaps distracted by a radio broadcast on the flight deck of a soccer match underway in Rio between Brazil and Chile, dialed in a compass heading of 270 instead of 027. The plane left Marabá and instead of heading in a northerly direction, turned west into the setting sun, and the Amazon Forest. Anyone with a basic knowledge of geography should know that to travel from Marabá to Belém, you do fly into the setting sun. Nearly two hours later, hopelessly lost, Zille identified the mistake, only to be greeted by a gesture from Garcez who pointed to the location of the microphone for the cockpit voice recorder, then put his finger to his lips. About an hour later, out of fuel, the Boeing 737 made a forced landing over 700 miles southwest of their destination. Miraculously both Garcez and Zille survived the crash, 13 of the 48 passengers did not.

Following the investigation, both pilots lost their commercial licenses. And to my knowledge, someone correct me if I am wrong, have never been re-licensed. Again, to my knowledge, and correct me if I am wrong, they were never criminally indicted.

In the accident involving the Legacy and the Gol 737, it has yet to be established and proved that American pilots Jan Paladino and Joe Lepore were either negligent or committed errors. So to insist on criminal investigation is to not understand the problem or the process.

keith said...

This is good news, but... There is still this nagging technical problem of why the transponder in the legacy was off for 55 minutes (everybody agrees). Does that have to do with the FAA AD due to "stupid design" followed by "stupid certification" (http://rgl.faa.gov/Regulatory_and_Guidance_Library/rgAD.nsf/0/1BDDC176AC629452862571E70059100D?OpenDocument) or with the FAA published acknowledgement that "the transponder spec is wrong" (The 45th Annual Air Traffic Control Association Conference Proceedings Fall 2000, Library of Congress Control Card Number 79-643160, ISSN 0192-8740, page 1)? There is a failure there, and you aint done until you find it. Then, but also, even so, the TCAS from the legacy would pick up the 737, even if the 737 and "radar" could not pick up the legacy, so that had to fail also! You aint even started until you find out why the legacy couldn't be seen by any "radar" (the one in the 737 was really close, and in line of sight), as well as couldn't see. See?

Cassandra_Moderna said...

According to the blog of George Rocha, a Brazilian pilot, the transponder was actually in the "standby" position. No one had turned it off. However, effectively, it was off. When it is in the standby position, the anticollision system will not work.
Unfortunately for those who do not read Portuguese, George's blog is only in that language.
He also points out that there is no audible alert neither is there a flashing orange warning on the LCD -- there is a notice of the situation in small white letters.
Also, the transponder in the Legacy was not new. It had presented problems in two other aircraft. It seems that the electrical contacts were not in good shape. George Rocha has moved his blog to: aviationtroubleshooting.
blogspot.com

Cassandra_Moderna said...

For those who read Portuguese, it would be instructive to read George Rocha's post concerning the condition and functioning of the transponder in the Legacy:
http://aviationtroubleshooting.
blogspot.com/2007/08/
legacy-transponder-standby
-tcas-off.html

Further, his post concerning the Legacy's authorized flight plan should put to rest any argument about the American pilots' conduct in this regard:
http://aviationtroubleshooting.
blogspot.com/2007/08/
legacy-plano-de-vo-apresentado
-no-foi.html

And, finally, this is his post concerning the tapes of the ATCs:
http://aviationtroubleshooting.
blogspot.com/2007/08/
controle-de-vo-gravadores
-dos.html

If anyone with superior technical knowledge has a more compelling explanation that deviates from his, please provide it.

Lopes said...

Thank you, Cassandra, for posting the George Rocha information. Very interesting stuff.