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American Shipper

Brazil air crash draws attention to infrastructure issues

Brazil air crash draws attention to infrastructure issues

   A crash at Sao Paulo, Brazil's Congonhas airport Tuesday that claimed the lives of at least 200 people is focusing attention on infrastructure problems and safety issues within the Brazil air transport system.

   A TAM Airlines Airbus-320 on a domestic flight with 186 passengers, crew, and TAM employees crashed when the aircraft started to touch down, then attempted to take off again because it needed more runway space. The airliner cleared the fence at the end of the runway and a roadway, but then crashed into gas station and a TAM building, killing everyone aboard and at least 14 people on the ground and in the building, according to Associated Press reports.

   The runway at Congonhas, the largest airport in South America, is 6,362 feet long. That compares to the 7,003-foot runway at New York's LaGuardia airport, which handles similar-sized aircraft.

   Two planes slipped off the Congonhas runway during wet weather earlier in the week, and pilots have long warned about the short runway and need for a steep descent into the airport. The main runway was recently repaved, but it was not grooved to help planes stop when the surface is wet.

   Since a Gol Airlines Boeing 737 collided with an executive jet over the Amazon rainforest last September, killing 154 people, there have been calls to review and improve air safety in Brazil. The Brazilian congress has held investigations into the country's air traffic control systems, deficient radar system, and the inability of the air transport system to handle passenger surges during busy seasons.

   In addition, air traffic controllers have held periodic strikes and slowdowns to raise safety concerns. There were no labor actions underway Tuesday at the time of the crash.

   Meanwhile, flights at the airport resumed today, with air traffic being directed to an alternate runway.

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