2006 Press Releases

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Aviation Groups Laud Release of Pilots Held in Brazil, Renew Call for Removal of Criminal Component in Accident Investigations

Contact: Dan Hubbard at (202) 783-9360 or [email protected]

WASHINGTON DC, December 8, 2006 – The leaders of several aviation organizations yesterday sent a joint letter to Brazilian prosecutorial authorities, commending recent legal action in Brazil that should shortly lead to the release of two American pilots held in the country for more than two months, and renewing a call that criminal inquiries not be made a part of investigations into any party involved in the accident.

The pilots have been held in Brazil since September 29, when their Embraer Legacy jet had a mid-air collision with a GOL Airlines Boeing jet; all 154 people aboard the GOL aircraft were killed as a result of the event.

"Since September 29, the international aviation community has been calling for a thorough investigation into this tragic accident," the letter reads.

"In order to fully understand the causes behind any accident, investigators must carefully examine all evidence, including the information that is collected from interviews with those operators most directly involved. Collection of crucial data must be free from any interference by the penal system, as fear of prosecution and/or imprisonment will only deter witnesses who may be willing to assist in the investigation.

"…A criminal inquiry has no place in the investigation of any party's role in this accident," the letter continues. "We are pleased that your criminal authority is working to release the pilots involved in the accident, and we implore you to also set aside any criminal component in your investigation of the involvement of air traffic controllers or other parties in the events of September 29."

The letter was signed by the leaders of the Flight Safety Foundation, the National Business Aviation Association, the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers' Associations, the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation and the International Federation of Air Line Pilots' Associations. The document outlines several additional reasons why the organizations believe criminal considerations, like those included in Brazilian authorities' examination of the September 29 accident, should not be part of aviation accident investigations. Their reasons were as follows:
  • A situation like that which occurred in Brazil has the potential to set a dangerous precedent for applying criminal charges to any pilot or other party to accidents involved in international aviation operations, and is counter to the recommendations of the International Civil Aviation Organization.
  • An emphasis on criminal penalties distracts investigators from addressing the root causes of an accident, and finding ways to avoid such causes in the future. It also allows for hasty conclusions to be reached that could be proven erroneous once a full safety investigation has taken place.
  • Hasty criminal investigations can produce conclusions, and verdicts, that could be proven erroneous once a full safety investigation has taken place.
"We understand the need for a grieving public to want to see justice served, and we do not seek to put our colleagues above the law," the letter concludes. "However, criminal investigations into aviation accidents like the one on September 29 are at odds with efforts to discover root causes of accidents and avoid future mistakes."

Download and review the full letter (96 KB, PDF).

Contacts:
  • Emily McGee, FSF, +1 703-739-6700, ext. 126
  • Dan Hubbard, NBAA, +1 202-783-9360
  • Philip Butterworth-Hayes, CANSO, +44 1273 724 238
  • IFATCA Office, +1 514-866-7040
  • Gideon Ewers, IFALPA, +44 1932 579 041

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Founded in 1947 and based in Washington, DC, the National Business Aviation Association, Inc. (NBAA) is the leading organization for companies that rely on general aviation aircraft to help make their businesses more efficient, productive and successful. The Association represents more than 7,000 companies and provides more than 100 products and services to the business aviation community, including the NBAA Annual Meeting & Convention, the world's largest civil aviation trade show. Learn more about NBAA at www.nbaa.org.