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Legacy pilots home, not yet free

The two US pilots involved in the fatal mid-air collision between their Embraer Legacy 600 business jet and a Gol Linhas Aéreas Boeing 737-800 over the Amazon jungle returned to New York on 9 December, more than two months after their passports were seized by Brazilian authorities. The passports were returned and travel restrictions were removed by a federal court weeks ago.

While the men are back on US soil, federal police in Brazil taking part in a criminal investigation being conducted in parallel with the accident investigation could yet press charges in what was Brazil's worst commercial airline accident.

All 154 people aboard the Gol jet were killed in the 29 September accident. The damaged Legacy and its seven unharmed occupants landed at a military airbase about 95km (51nm) north-west of the suspected position of the incident at 37,000ft (11,285m). Police are focusing on whether the pilots or air traffic controllers could have done anything to avert the crash.

Lawyer for the pilots Robert Torricella says no formal charges have been made at this point, despite reports that the two have been indicted. The confusion stems from the Portuguese legal term "indiciar", which Toricella says does not translate to "indicted" as has been reported, but instead means that the pilots are being treated as suspects rather than witnesses.

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