The two US ExcelAire business jet pilots involved in the alleged September mid-air collision with a Gol Linhas Aéreas Boeing 737-800 have returned to the USA after being charged with an as-yet unspecified crimnal charge.

Joe Lepore and Jan Paladino arrived at around 12:00 yesterday at MacArthur Airport on Long Island, New York on board an Embraer Legacy 600 similar to the model they were flying at the time of the incident above the Amazon.

The pilots were greeted by a crowd of around 200 people, including friends, family, embassy officials, business associates and the journalists on board the ferry flight on 29 September. The Embraer employee also on board that day was not present.

Lepore and Paladino were charged on Friday with 'unintentional wrongdoing' by São Paulo police and had their passports returned. The pilots had been questioned by federal police for two months and reportedly declined to answer any questions posed by police.

The charge from the Brazilian police against Lepore and Paladino comes just hours before the pilots were to due have their passports returned. “Even before the start of the planned interrogation today, federal police officials advised them that they were accusing them of unspecified criminal conduct,” says lawyers acting for the pair.

No other details are being officially released. The pilots have been detained in Brazil since the 29 September accident.

However, Joe Sharkey, the New York Times columnist who was onboard the Legacy when it allegedly collided with the Gol 737, is reporting on his own web site that Lepore and Paladino had been charged with involuntary manslaughter.