One of the American pilots involved in a 2006 mid-air collision in Brazil that killed 154 airplane passengers took the witness stand yesterday in a trial that could determine whether he ends up in a Brazilian prison. Although the trial is being held in Brazil, the pilot, Jan Paladino, testified from a courthouse in New York yesterday. The New York Times describes the somewhat surreal process of a trial where a judge in Brazil asks questions over a video link, and the responses come back the same way. Audio problems and translation have slowed the proceedings to a crawl. The crash occurred over the Amazon when the corporate jet piloted by Paladino and Joseph Lepore clipped a 747 full of passengers, causing the larger plane to crash into the forest, killing everyone on board.
Lepore and Paladino managed an emergency landing of their plane at a nearby air base and none of their seven passengers were injured. Brazilian authorities accused the two men of deviating from their flight plan, flying recklessly and failing to use the proper instruments. The pair of Americans have maintained they acted appropriately and followed instructions of Brazilian air traffic controllers. The pilots were detained for 70 days in Brazil after crash before being allowed to return to the United States and stand trial there. The two pilots face a prison term of up to four years.