A Brazilian Air Force report blamed two US pilots for a 2006 midair crash that sent an airliner plummeting into the Amazon killing all 154 people onboard, the O Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper reported on Saturday.
The report held that pilot error was the “central point in a chain of errors” when the private Embraer Legacy jet collided Sept. 29, 2006, with the Gol Boeing 737 at about 11,300m over central Brazil.
While pilots Joseph Lepore and Jan Paladino managed to land safely with their five passengers despite part of the aircraft’s tail being sheared off, the commercial airliner fell to the Amazon rainforest.
The US pilots have insisted that they were cleared by air traffic controllers to fly at that altitude.
The 261-page report, details of which were obtained by the newspaper, said Lepore and Paladino were directly responsible for the collision.
The investigation also found fault with a air traffic control in Sao Jose dos Campos for not being precise enough in its instructions to the jet.
Primarily, the pilots “inadvertently turned off by hand” the Legacy’s transponder, an alarm system that would have warned the jet it was flying too close to the airliner, said the report. The report also said the Legacy had been instructed by air traffic control to fly at 11,300m without the realizing it was the same flight path as the airliner.
The newspaper said the investigation was not seeking “culprits” in the accident, but rather to identify the contributing factors.
Lawyers for the two pilots, who were held in Brazil for two months after the incident, insisted in April last year that fault for the crash lay mainly with the air traffic controllers.
The report lists 65 guidelines and safety recommendations that will be sent to various civil aviation bodies.