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Brazilian Defense Minister Takes Shot At US Pilots

Calls Statement They Were Following Flight Plan 'Irresponsible'

The finger pointing continues in Brazil. Brazilian defense minister Waldir Pires says the US pilots involved in last week's crash of a Gol Airlines 737 are irresponsible. The airliner went down in the amazon jungle killing all 154 aboard.

Dismissing suggestions of errors by Brazilian air traffic controllers, Pires says pilots Lepore and Paladino should not have been flying their northwest-bound Embraer Legacy 600 at 37,000 feet. International air traffic rules reserve odd numbered altitudes for traffic flying east.

Brazilian authorities maintain the Embraer collided with the 737 causing the crash.

Lepore and Paladino say they were following their flight plan when the two aircraft collided.

In response, Pires said, "It was a frivolous statement ... It was irresponsible. The flight plan says that the (planes) should fly on even-number levels."

Lepore's and Paladino's statement is disputed by Brazilian police who say they obtained a copy of the flight plan from Embraer.

Edimara Fagundes, spokeswoman for the Mato Grosso Civil Police told the Associated Press the Legacy was to fly at 37,000 ft until a course change to the northwest. At that point, she claims, the pilots should have descended to 36,000 ft.

Lepore and Paladino say they lost contact with controllers and stuck to their last-assigned altitude.

Earlier this week, Brazilian authorities suggested that Lepore and Paladino might have turned off their altitude reporting equipment, a claim the two have repeatedly denied.

Those same authorities admit they have no proof to back the allegation.

FMI: www.brazilian-consulate.org/

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