A transcript's tale; Full NTSB-prepared cockpit document gives new perspective on LI pilots' role in Brazil collision

Full NTSB-prepared cockpit document gives new perspective on LI pilots' role in Brazil collision


Two seconds later comes the sound of the aircraft touching down. When one pilot says, "Good job, good job ..." his colleague responds, "We're alive ..." Then there is laughter and the sound of the passengers in the cabin clapping.

Who is to blame?

Hans-Peter Graf, former investigator in charge at the Swiss Aircraft Accidents Investigation Bureau who is working for the Lieff firm, said the transcript shows the pilots and controllers both made mistakes.

"A first impression was the pilots were not very well trained with the airplane," Graf said. "They were not totally prepared to do the flight, so they had to do part of the flight preparation," such as planning the landing, during the flight instead of before it.

As for the controllers, Graf said, "the transcript shows that the controllers only started calling the airplane very late, only minutes before the accident." This is new information from the transcript; Brazil has not released the transcripts of tower conversations.

Joel R. Weiss, a Uniondale lawyer representing the pilots, said the transcript "reveals that the pilots functioned in a completely competent manner." He added that "the real issue here" is that "air traffic control would authorize and clear these two aircraft onto a collision course."

John M. Cox, president of Safety Operating Systems in Washington and a former safety official at the Air Line Pilots Association, said, "I am not in any way critical of the way that that crew handled themselves. They talk quite a bit about fuel planning; they're not talking about how the Yankees did. I think the Brazilian air traffic control system has a problem."

Bill Waldock, professor of safety science at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Arizona, said the pilots' behavior was proper for a crew picking up a new aircraft. Working with the flight-management system and entertainment system "would be a normal pilot response at 37,000 feet where you're not constantly scanning for traffic" and expect controllers to be keeping track of other aircraft.

Recording's key moments

The San Francisco law firm Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstein has submitted the full transcript of the cockpit recorder to federal court in Brooklyn in a lawsuit against pilots Joseph Lepore and Jan Paladino, ExcelAire and Honeywell. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the victims' families. Here is a summary of the moments before the collision:

At 19:40:13, the plane tries to reach Brasília controllers, the first of 12 attempts. A controller responds, but the communication is broken up. At 19:55:47, a pilot says, "I got radio problem here."

At 19:56:54 comes the sound of an impact. One pilot says, "Uh-oh," the autopilot disconnects and three chimes ring out. A pilot says, "What the hell was that?" The other pilot responds, "All right, just fly the airplane, dude ..."

Seconds later, one pilot says, "Where the -- did he come from? All right, we're going down. Declaring an emergency. Sit down." At 20:03:00, a pilot said, "We are on course. We're on level attitude. I don't know what the -- we just hit."

The pilots make five more radio calls to Brasília without response and then one says, "Do we have a wing tip?" Another voice responds, "No."

At 20:20:05, as the Legacy approached the runway at an Air Force base, one pilot said, "We hit something, man. We hit another airplane. I don't know where the -- it came from." The other pilot responded, "I never saw it, dude."

Two seconds later, the aircraft touches down.



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