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Old October 6th, 2006, 05:42 AM   #141
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Questions multiply in Brazil air disaster probe

RIO DE JANEIRO, Oct 5, 2006 (AFP) - Six days after a mid-air collision over the Amazon jungle killed 154 people in Brazil's worst air tragedy, a raft of key questions about what caused the disaster went unanswered Thursday.

A small business jet, with two US pilots, and a GOL airline's Boeing 737 collided; the smaller plane managed to land safely, but the GOL jet's passengers and crew perished on the jungle floor.

Brazilian authorities on Wednesday detained two US pilots to face possible manslaughter charges. Joseph Lepore and Jan Paladino were the pilot and co-pilot of an Embraer Legacy 600 business jet that collided last Friday with a Boeing 737 belonging to GOL airline at 11,200 meters (37,000 feet).

A judge in Mato Grasso state, where the GOL plane crashed, ordered their passports confiscated.

GOL revised the death toll in the crash from 155 to 154 people killed, saying it had counted one passenger twice.

Investigators want to know why the Legacy's anti-collision system failed to work, and why the pilot had turned off the plane's radio.

The radio was working, for they used it to issue a mayday call and eventually to find the military airport they landed at. According to police, the pilot was out of the cabin when the radio signal was interrupted.

Among the looming questions: Was the tragedy a result of pilot error by someone flying the Legacy? Was it caused by a Brazilian air traffic controller? Or was there a mechanical malfunction?

Authorities believe only the full investigation, which they said should take about 90 days, will tell.

The Boeing's "black boxes" were found seriously damaged, and were sent to Canada to be examined by experts.

Lepore and Paladino have been questioned twice by Mato Grosso police. They made their emergency landing at the Serra do Cachimbo military base there.

In Washington, the State Department said the United States was following the probe.

"We have been in touch with the Brazilian Government about this issue and also have been, through our consular officials, talking with the individuals involved," said Tom Casey, a State Department spokesman.

"But my understanding is they are not charged with any criminal violations. This is simply part of a standard procedure that the Brazilians are applying under their law as they proceed with the investigation," he said.

Other questions up in the air include: Why did the anti-collision system not work at the moment of impact? Why did the system start working again later? Why was the Legacy in the air route reserved for the GOL jet? Why did communication between the Legacy and the control tower in Brasilia fail?

According to the flight plan, the Legacy left from Sao Jose dos Campos, in Sao Paulo state, ans was supposed to drop to 36,000 feet on its way into Brasilia headed for Manaus, capital of Amazonas state, where it was supposed to have a stopover en route to the United States.

The pilots told police they lost contact with the Brasilia control tower minutes before the impact, raising the hypothesis of a problem with the Brazilian-made Legacy's anti-collision system.

Embraer, which makes the Legacy, on Thursday declined to comment on an ongoing investigation.

Meanwhile, some 200 Brazilian troops remained on the ground picking through bits and pieces of the aircraft and recovering victims' remains, in an operation that is slow and difficult in the jungle. Remains of about 50 people have been moved out so far, authorities said Thursday.
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Old October 31st, 2006, 03:53 PM   #142
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Brazil airline Gol posts record 3rd-quarter profit

SAO PAULO, Brazil, Oct 31 (Reuters) - Brazilian airline Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes posted record third-quarter profit of 190 million reais ($88.4 million) on Tuesday as it added passengers and routes while keeping a lid on costs.

The result, calculated under U.S. GAAP accounting, compared with a profit of 138.2 million reais in the third quarter of 2005.

Gol, which was founded in 2001 using the U.S. and European budget carrier model, said net revenue jumped 55.5 percent from a year ago to a record 1.1 billion reais.

The airline's occupancy rate climbed 5.1 percentage points in the quarter to 78.8 percent even as it added 78 new routes and three new destinations.

Gol finished the third quarter with 36 percent of Brazil's aviation market, up from 29 percent a year earlier. Its main rival, TAM Linhas Aereas , finished the quarter with 51.7 percent market share.

The earnings release was the first since a Gol passenger jet crashed on Sept. 29 in the Amazon jungle, killing all 154 people on board. It was Gol's first major accident in five years of existence.

Gol, which is already Boeing's biggest customer in Latin America with a fleet of 56 aircraft, said on Monday that it had placed a firm order for an additional 20 Boeing 737-800s.

It also increased the number of options by 20 aircraft, bringing Gol's total order size of Boeing next-generation airliners to 121.

Gol offers more than 500 daily flights to 51 airports in Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay.
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Old November 2nd, 2006, 01:13 AM   #143
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Brazil's Tam picks Boeing 777s over Airbus A340s

Journal Gazette / Times Courier Online
Wednesday, November 1, 2006 12:45 PM CST


Brazil's Tam picks Boeing 777s over Airbus A340s

SEATTLE - Tam Linhas Aereas SA, Brazil's largest airline, announced Tuesday that it was ordering four extended-range versions of Boeing's 777-300 and reserving purchase rights for four more of the wide-body jets.

The deal, which Chicago-based Boeing said still is being finalized, is worth $1 billion at list prices, though airlines typically negotiate discounts.

The only large planes currently in the Sao Paulo carrier's fleet are A319s, A320s and A330s, which made by Boeing's chief rival Toulouse, France-based Airbus.

Marco Antonio Bologna, Tam's chief executive officer, said the airline decided to go with the 777-300ER in large part because Boeing is letting it sign a short-term lease for three MD-11s that will allow Tam to quickly increase the number of long-range flights it offers.

The MD-11s are expected to be delivered over the next six months, while Tam is scheduled to take delivery of the new 777s in the middle of 2008.

link: http://www.jg-tc.com/articles/2006/1.../d8l415soc.txt
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Old November 2nd, 2006, 02:53 AM   #144
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Brazilian flight delays may continue
By ALAN CLENDENNING
1 November 2006

SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) - Flights across Brazil were severely delayed Wednesday as air traffic controllers engaged in a so-called "work-to-rule" campaign, following regulations to the letter in a protest move that significantly slowed airline operations and could last until next week.

The action by controllers came amid complaints that they are understaffed, overworked and underpaid despite robust Brazilian commercial flight growth -- and must now take extra safety precautions following a midair collision in September that was Brazil's most deadly air crash.

Domestic flights at many airports were delayed about two hours on average and in some cases much longer at the start of a long weekend travel crunch brought on by the nation's Memorial Day holiday on Thursday. Some domestic flights were canceled, and some international flights were delayed.

Government officials took emergency measures to ease air traffic bottlenecks, preventing private jets from flying at several major airports during peak hours and creating a new flight corridor over the Atlantic Ocean for jets traveling to and from northeastern and southeastern Brazil.

But Wellington Rodrigues, the president of the union representing air traffic controllers, told Brazil's Globo TV the delays would probably last until at least next week as controllers negotiate with the government over solutions.

Most passengers were taking the delays in stride, some of them sleeping in airport lounges as they waited for flights to depart, while others arrived tired at their destinations.

"At least we made it. Things could be worse," said Maria Aparecida after arriving in Rio de Janeiro from Brasilia with a three-hour delay.

Ten flight controllers who were working when the Sept. 29 midair collision happened are on paid leave from their jobs, undergoing psychiatric treatment.

The crash happened when a Boeing 737-800 of Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes SA, Brazil's No. 2 airline, collided with a Brazilian-made Embraer Legacy 600 executive jet over the Amazon jungle of Mato Grosso state. All 154 people aboard the Boeing were killed, while the Legacy landed safely at a nearby air force base.

Investigators want to question the flight controllers, who were assigned to airports in Manaus, in the western Amazon jungle, and Brasilia, but the interrogations have been delayed because of their psychiatric treatment.

The flight data recorders of both planes were analyzed in Canada but the cause of the collision has not yet been announced.
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Old November 9th, 2006, 04:35 PM   #145
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Brazil Official Defends Air Controllers
By MICHAEL ASTOR
8 November 2006

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AP) - Brazil's defense minister on Wednesday defended air traffic controllers involved in the country's deadliest air disaster, dismissing claims that controllers allegedly ordered an executive jet to fly at the wrong altitude.

Waldir Pires told a news conference it was irresponsible to assign blame until the completion of an investigation into the cause of the Sept. 29 collision between a Gol airlines flight and the Legacy executive jet, which killed 154 people.

Last week, the Brazilian newspaper Folha de S. Paulo published an unsourced report saying the control tower in Sao Jose dos Campos, where the Legacy took off, cleared it to fly at 37,000 feet -- an altitude normally reserved for traffic headed the opposite direction -- all the way to the Amazon jungle city of Manaus.

The Legacy collided with the Gol's Boeing 737, which crashed to the jungle floor killing everyone aboard. The smaller jet landed safely with no injuries to the passengers or crew.

On Tuesday, the Legacy's owner, ExcelAire Service Inc., also appeared to blame the accident on Brazilian controllers.

"In the face of recent confirmations that air traffic control cleared and directed the ExcelAire Legacy Jet to fly to Manaus at 37,000 feet, repeated suggestions that ExcelAire's pilots were flying at the wrong altitude are baseless," Robert Torricella, a lawyer representing ExcelAire said in the statement.

But Pires said Wednesday the controllers were not to blame.

"The (control) tower normally thinks of when an airplane is taking off and what is its final destination, but it isn't what determines the altitudes and course of things," Pires said.

"That is the flight plan," he added. "And in the flight plan, it was written that the (Legacy) should travel at 37,000 feet from Sao Jose dos Campos to Brasilia and in Brasilia should drop to 36,000 feet."

Lawyers for the victims' families have filed a lawsuit in U.S. federal court claiming negligence by ExcelAire and Honeywell International Inc., the manufacturer of the executive jet's transponder.

Brazilian officials have seized the passports of the two American pilots of the executive jet, both of whom are from New York. They remain in a Rio de Janeiro hotel while the probe continues.
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Old December 7th, 2006, 03:16 AM   #146
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Air Traffic Sys Failure Forces Brazil To Ground Flights

SAO PAULO, Dec 05, 2006 (DJCS via Comtex) -- Virtually all takeoffs from three major airports in Brazil were canceled Tuesday night after an air traffic communications system broke down, making it difficult for controllers to communicate with pilots and creating air travel chaos.

Brazil's Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement that takeoffs were banned at the airport in the capital of Brasilia and in the large central city of Belo Horizonte. Many takeoffs were also canceled at the airport in Sao Paulo that handles domestic flights, though the authority allowed flights to continue on the busy Sao Paulo-Rio de Janeiro shuttle route.

Authorities were still allowing planes to land at the three airports and almost all international flights departing Sao Paulo, Brazil's largest city, take off from a separate airport unaffected by the government order. But the Belo Horizonte and Brasilia airports also serve some international destinations, and all takeoffs were prohibited from those airports.

The problem emerged when a communications system in Brasilia inexplicably broke down, reducing the number of radio frequencies and making it hard for controllers to reach pilots flying commercial jets in some of Brazil's busiest air traffic corridors, the government's Agencia Brasil news agency reported.

The breakdown initially caused huge delays Tuesday morning, prompting passengers to sleep on airport floors. Authorities decided later to cancel the takeoffs at the three airports until the communications system is repaired.

The aviation authority said the system could be repaired by Wednesday, but warned travelers to check on flights with airlines and acknowledged that the incident was Brazil's most disruptive air traffic communications failure in history.

"There has never been a collapse like this," Milton Zuanazzi, who heads the aviation authority, told Folha de S. Paulo.

It also came as most air travelers in Latin America's largest nation have had to put up with more than a month of serious flight delays sparked by a job protest by controllers.

Following Brazil's worst-ever air crash disaster, the controllers began following regulations to the letter in a protest that significantly slowed operations and is having a financial impact on Brazilian airlines.

Under the "work to rule" campaign, they have refused to handle more than the limit of flights recommended under international standards and are strictly observing times between landings and takeoffs. The protest came amid complaints that Brazilian controllers are overworked, underpaid and understaffed despite strong commercial flight growth in recent years.

The commander of Brazil's air traffic control system was subsequently dismissed late last month, though Defense Minister Waldir Pires insisted that the move was a routine transfer. But it came just days after shares in Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes SA (GOL) and Brazil's Tam Linhas Aereas SA (TAM) airline fell because of continued flight delays that government officials had said they would solve.

Authorities are still investigating whether actions by controllers played a role in the Sept. 29 mid-air crash above the Amazon jungle that killed 154 people in a collision between a Gol airlines Boeing 737 and an Embraer Legacy 600 executive jet.

All of the passengers on the Gol flight died, but the pilots of the executive jet managed to bring their plane down with no injuries to the seven on board.

Brazilian authorities prevented the two American executive jet pilots from leaving the country as investigators probed the crash, but a court ruled Tuesday that they can pick up their passports and leave Brazil within 72 hours. They have been holed up in a hotel fronting Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana beach for more than two months.
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Old December 8th, 2006, 09:13 AM   #147
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Brazil's Gol cuts 2006 profit forecast, ups 2007

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil, Dec 7 (Reuters) - Brazil's budget airline Gol on Thursday revised its per-share profit forecast lower for this year due to problems with air traffic control, but it raised its projection for next year.

Gol cut its per-share profit estimate to between 3.4 reais ($1.60) and 3.65 reais in 2006 due to a drop in passenger traffic, compared with a previous forecast of between 3.75 reais and 4 reais issued last month.

Later the same day Gol Linhas Aereas raised its forecast range for next year to 5.20 reais to 5.65 reais from the 5.10 to 5.60 reais it announced in July.

Gol shares fell over 3.5 percent after the first announcement but recovered some ground toward the end of the day to trade 1.2 percent lower at 61.85 reais.

Citing problems in Brazil's air traffic control and lower load factor, Gol said it should end this year with net revenue of around 3.9 billion reais, down from its previous forecast of 4 billion reais.

But Gol said it expects that the problems will be resolved soon and put its net revenues next year at 5.6 billion reais, up from a previously expected 5.4 billion reais.

The expected operating margin for 2006 was revised down to 21 percent from 23 percent and next year's margin to 23 percent from between 26 and 28 percent, Gol said.

The previous expectation of a load factor of 74 percent in 2006 was revised down to 73 percent.

Air traffic in Brazil has been chaotic since Gol's Boeing 737 crashed on Sept. 29, exposing major problems in the country's aviation system and forcing the temporary shutdown of three airports amid its worst-ever aviation crisis this week.

Since the crash, which killed 154 people and was the deadliest in Brazilian history, air traffic controllers have organized work slowdowns to protest poor pay and long hours, bringing air travel to a near halt several times in the last two months.
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Old December 11th, 2006, 05:40 AM   #148
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Brazil's New Leader
Just 10 years after it gained authority to fly on trunk routes, TAM has emerged as the country's largest airline.


By Edvaldo Pereira Lima
Brazil's New Leader
Air Transport World, December 2006, p.32

TEN YEARS AGO THIS MONTH, TAM was awarded the right to fly trunk routes in Brazil. It was a major step for the airline, which had begun life as a regional carrier in 1976 during the era of fare and route regulation. Henceforth TAM could serve the top markets nationwide, competing head-to-head with the country's leading carriers: Varig, Vasp and Transbrasil. Owing to the drive and commitment of its visionary founder, the late Capt. Rolim Adolfo Amaro, TAM already enjoyed a reputation as a service innovator, with a commitment to providing top-quality passenger service embedded within its corporate culture.

No one knew what the future held, but even the most optimistic could not have foreseen the dramatic changes that have occurred in Brazil's airline industry over the past decade and particularly since 9/11. Of TAM's top competitors in 1996, Vasp and Transbrasil are out of business while Varig, which for three decades had been the undisputed domestic market leader and de facto flag carrier of Brazil, is struggling to survive. TAM, meanwhile, overcame the death in a helicopter crash of Captain Rolim in 2001 to become Brazil's leading airline in both the domestic and international arenas, operating more than 600 daily departures to 46 domestic destinations and 11 outside Brazil. It had a 51.2% market share among local carriers in the first quarter and a 52.6% share in the second quarter.

Now the one to watch is fast flier Gol, the first true low-cost carrier in Brazil and South America (ATW, 2/06, p. 44), which from a modest beginning in 2001 has jumped to the No. 2 position with a 36% domestic market share in July. Data from OAG show that Gol is closing rapidly. In a representative week in October it offered 523,157 seats and 3,484 frequencies against 624,826 seats and 4,536 frequencies for TAM (see chart, p. 36). Additionally, Gol is expanding rapidly into neighboring countries in South America following the traditional model of operating a single fleet type with everyday low fares and no-frills service.

Soaring Earnings

In this new scenario, TAM has many reasons to consider 2006 special. Earnings for the January-June semester soared sevenfold to R$208.3 million ($94.3 million) from R$28.8 million in the year-ago period. Gross revenues grew 32% to R$3.49 billion and operating income climbed sixfold to R$306.7 million. Passenger boardings increased 33.4% to 11.6 million and RPKs surged 35.3% to 11.9 billion. Traffic results for August 2006 were even more exciting: Domestic market share reached 51.3% against 41.7% last year and international market share skyrocketed to 54.5% compared to 20.5% one year before.

To be sure, much of TAM's rapid growth is attributable to the corresponding shrinkage at Varig, which narrowly avoided the fate of Transbrasil and Vasp last summer. The eleventh-hour rescue in July left it under new ownership with only a shadow of its former workforce, fleet and route network. In August, its share of the domestic market fell to just 2.2%, a far cry from the 25.2% enjoyed in 2005, while international market share dropped to 21.6% from 76%. Varig is not the full answer, however. Despite the loss of its capacity, Brazilian domestic passenger air traffic increased 7.8% in August over August 2005. The outlook seems favorable, with several factors contributing to the success TAM has pursued with zeal. CEO Marco Antonio Bologna has a geopolitical explanation: "Brazil is the largest country in Latin America and thus the main air market in this part of the world. If you look around globally and check high population levels, where do you find real opportunities for growth in the air transport industry? China, India, Russia and Brazil. We have 187 million population but only 10 million people fly despite the double-digit growth of the market over the last three years. The market is going to grow [even more] through the efficiency of airlines that will design competitive fares applied to different segments." This is what TAM has been doing, says Bologna, appealing to business travelers--who currently represent an estimated 80% of demand--and leisure passengers alike.

The airline already has achieved the first leg of its twin strategy by becoming Brazil's leading domestic carrier. On the international front it intends "to achieve a selective and profitable growth where there is air traffic of Brazilians in an enhanced, balanced mix of business and leisure travels."

How to maintain its leadership domestically while growing in the international arena? Bologna is straightforward: By providing high-quality customer service and continuing to do so, value-added service--which comprises the route network, ontime performance, direct flights, convenient schedules, high frequency and competitive fares; by innovating in services and products, and by improving liquidity and solvency and thus gaining bargaining power when negotiating business deals.

These factors are linked to the brand name of TAM, ranked first in the industry and one of the 15 most valuable franchises in Brazil. A twin of this is the airline's frequent-flier program Fidelidade. TAM was the first Brazilian carrier to offer a loyalty program when it launched it back in 1993. Today it has 3 million members and has awarded 3.3 million free tickets.

Another element is cost management. Bologna may surprise the reader by saying he considers TAM a low-cost carrier. "The concept of LCC here is not comparable to Europe or the US," he elaborates. "We have a single labor cost pattern and a single airport cost pattern and there is not so much Internet sales penetration. Regarding costs, airlines differentiate themselves in their commercial cost structure, hourly use of the fleet and management cost."

Finance and operational cost, however, are areas in which some analysts think TAM should do a better job. In the 2006 second quarter, for example, it reported net income of R$97.1 million, reversing a loss of R$24.7 million the prior year. Not a bad performance, but Gol earned R$106.7 million. TAM's CASK dropped from R19.12 to R18.69 cents, mainly owing to improvements in aircraft utilization from 10.66 to 12.04 hr. Good, but Gol did better: CASK of R15.32 cents and a 13.9-block-hr. utilization.

Bologna agrees that TAM "has still a lot to do in reducing costs," a mission outlined and started five years ago. One of the elements yet to be improved is trimming commercial cost through increased use of direct selling channels. Only 17% of the airline's total sales are direct and the goal is to reach 25% in 2007. Simultaneously, there is a classic tug-of-war with credit card companies in Brazil involving all airlines. Bologna says the service fee is usually 1.5% abroad but more than 2% in Brazil. "Credit cards are the best payment media for the industry, but we understand there is an exaggerated pre-pricing in the Brazilian market."

Another area being tackled for improvement is overhead cost. Being a 30-year-old company, TAM has room to modernize management procedures and enhance IT processes. One of the measures taken last year was outsourcing of its data center, system development, telecommunications, distributed computing and help desk at an estimated savings of 25%.

In the technical field, a recent move that helped to cut costs was the certification by Brazil's ANAC and Europe's EASA of TAM's maintenance facility at Sao Carlos, 255 km. north of Sao Paulo. The 4.6-million-sq.-m. engineering center is now able to provide C and D checks for the current fleet of 10 A330s, 44 A320s, 13 A319s and 22 F100s. The Fokkers are to be phased out completely by the first half of 2008. TAM has firm orders for 10 A350-900s with five options with deliveries starting in 2012, although the timetable may slide. TAM also has an MOU for 15 A319s, 16 A320s and six A330s for deliveries until 2010, plus a firm order for 20 A320s and 20 options. Finally, at presstime, it ordered four 777-200ERs for delivery in mid-2008.

Capital Expansion

To broaden its capital base in light of these extensive commitments and future expansion plans, TAM in March followed LAN, Gol and Copa onto the New York Stock Exchange via an IPO. This move, together with a similar public offering on the Bovespa in Brazil, raised R$1.5 billion. In July 2005 it raised R$548 million in an initial Bovespa offering. More recently, it entered the Ibovespa and Indice Brasil 50 and Morgan Stanley Capital International indexes. Last September it completed its first-ever issuance of debentures in Brazil, which raised an additional R$500 million.

The 2005 Bovespa and the 2006 NYSE and Bovespa launches are part of a strategic long-term move. "We did it in two movements, to capitalize the company firstly and secondly to give the company a longer time of exposure to the market before the larger launch," explains CFO and Investor Relations Director Libano Miranda Barroso. "When you enter the capital market and do an IPO you pay an entering price. The investor does not know you and has other investment options. So we first listed the company in Brazil, $230 million, which is not big enough for two stock exchanges. This concentrated liquidity, created history and exposed major shareholders to a policy of relations with investors with a high pattern of disclosure. After the skeptical initial period, the company gained value as time went by."

The NYSE listing made TAM establish a high level of corporate governance and it began to be scrutinized by analysts who follow not just emerging markets but also the global market. The increase in coverage improved liquidity. "Our liquidity, which was 0.7% of a 21% free float, turned into 1% of a 45% free float," says Barroso. "Our papers were originally negotiated at R$18 each at Bovespa but today are around R$70. In New York they began at $19.40 and now each is quoted at $32.50."

Optimism is in the air, and it is not just because TAM was ready to move forward as Varig dramatically reduced operations. The establishment of ANAC as the civilian air transport body earlier this year, replacing the military-managed DAC, is seen as a very positive move. The new air transport policy that came with it brings the industry three powerful foundations, elaborates Bologna. "One is price freedom. You don't have your fares frozen by the air transport authority anymore, as used to happen. Or you don't have to fear that your promotional fare will not be permitted. The second point is freedom to fly. You can fly anywhere you choose provided you have the airplanes to do the job. And third is the slot concession criterion. If you deliver reliability and punctuality above 85%, the slot is yours. And to apply for a slot you have to provide a certificate that you don't owe tributes and taxes. This is a historic advancement in this country."

Efficient carriers now can feel confident to explore the huge potential for growth in Brazil, a country larger than the continental US where roads are in bad shape and the rail system is limited and not designed for passenger traffic. The industry grew 19.5% last year despite a modest growth of only 2.5% in the nation's GDP.

New domestic destinations are being added to TAM's route network. Internationally, rights into Milan were granted recently and new frequencies have been implemented into Miami and New York. London was to become a new destination Oct. 28. In South America, in addition to the current seven destinations beyond Brazil and one codeshare service with TACA into Lima, Caracas is on the horizon.

New business opportunities are being sought in cargo--taking advantage of belly space--charters in partnership with Brazilian tour operator CVC, the tour package segment through subsidiary TAM Viagens, new partnerships for the Fidelidade program and MRO, as the new maintenance operation is also to provide third-party services for Boeing aircraft.

The journey is on, navigation is set and the course is charted. It is destiny to say now how TAM will design its own future.
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Old December 11th, 2006, 08:03 AM   #149
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US pilots charged in mid-air collision that killed 154 people

SAO PAULO, Dec 8, 2006 (AFP) - Police on Friday charged two US pilots involved in Brazil's deadliest air disaster in September, with "endangering an aircraft."

Despite the charges and the ongoing investigation of the September 29 mid-air collision over the Amazon jungle with a Brazilian airliner, killing 154 people, pilots Joseph Lepore and Jan Paladino will be free to return to the United States immediately, said their lawyer Theo Dias.

After a seven-hour hearing before court officials in Mato Grosso state, the two defendants headed to the Guarulhos international airport presumably for a flight home.

The charge of endangering an aircraft is legally classed as "involuntary," and carries a penalty, if convicted, of two-to-five years in prison, Dias said.

The collision between the Gol Airline Boeing 737 and the executive jet with seven passengers on board piloted by the two defendants took place over the Amazon jungle in the western state of Mato Grosso. It was Brazil's worst air disaster.

Since the accident, the two US pilots had been detained at a hotel in Rio de Janeiro and had surrendered their passports to police.

Before leaving the hearing in Mato Grosso, they got their passports back and they signed a commitment to return to Brazil for any court appearance or investigation need that might arise on the case, the lawyer said.

They were allowed to return home under terms of a US-Brazilian cooperation agreement on legal matters.

The accident, according to two air traffic controllers involved in the tragedy who were recently interviewed by Epoca magazine, occurred over a "blind zone," where control towers have no contact with airplanes.

The controllers said the area covers a wide swath of central Brazil including the northern part of the western state of Mato Grosso, the central state of Tocantins and Bahia in the northeast.

The controllers said other blind zones exist, including in northern Brazil.

Brazilian aviation authorities late last month denied the existence of "blind zones," also called "black holes," in the altitudes used by commercial flights, starting at 30,000 feet (9,145 meters).

The collision took place at 37,000 feet (11,278 meters) on September 29 in northern Mato Grosso.

The air traffic controllers, who are from the military, spoke on condition of anonymity. One was charged with tracking the Legacy executive jet's flight across the Brasilia area, while the other was in an air operations room.
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Old December 12th, 2006, 04:32 AM   #150
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Brazilian flights delayed again after power shutdown at air traffic control center
By ALAN CLENDENNING
11 December 2006

SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) - Commercial flights in Brazil were delayed on Monday after a power shutdown at an air traffic control installation, the latest disruption in more than a month of frustrations for travelers and financial woes for airlines.

Electricity was cut off to the air traffic control center in the city of Curitiba, 400 kilometers (250 miles) southwest of Sao Paulo, during work to modernize the system, Brazil's Civil Aviation Authority said.

Power was restored an hour later, but the shutdown piled fresh flight delays on top of an already stressed air traffic control system. Brazil's military, which runs the air traffic control system, denied the electricity shutdown was the result of an equipment failure, the Agencia Estado news wire reported.

But the event was not announced to the public before it took place and came less than a week after authorities suspended all takeoffs from three major airports for hours, prompting a wave of unprecedented flight cancellations, after the control system in the capital of Brasilia failed.

It then took airlines days to get stranded passengers to their destinations, and the Brasilia air traffic system stopped working again briefly on Saturday, ushering in a new round of delayed flights.

The military and officials are still trying to pinpoint what caused last week's failure in Brasilia.

The latter incident reduced the number of radio frequencies air traffic controllers use to communicate with pilots traveling in some of the busiest flight corridors of Latin America's largest country.

Severe flight delays began in late October, when air traffic controllers seeking better pay and working conditions began following regulations to the letter, significantly slowing operations.

Congress has created committees to evaluate the crisis, and some lawmakers called for the resignation of Defense Minister Waldir Pires. Brazil's air force is in charge of air traffic controllers.

The commander of Brazil's air traffic control system was dismissed late last month, though Pires insisted it was a routine transfer.

More than 20 percent of Brazilian flights already were delayed by more than an hour Monday morning after the power shutdown in Curitiba, Agencia Estado said.

The delays were most severe in Sao Paulo, the central city of Belo Horizonte and Brasilia.

Authorities are still investigating whether actions by controllers played a role in the Sept. 29 crash above the Amazon jungle between a Gol airlines Boeing 737 and an Embraer Legacy 600 executive jet. All 154 people aboard the Gol flight were killed in what was Brazil's worst air disaster.
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Old December 13th, 2006, 03:44 AM   #151
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Brazilian charter flights grounded during peak travel hours to ease flight delays
By ALAN CLENDENNING
12 December 2006

SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) - Chartered flights in Brazil have been grounded during peak air travel hours to help ease severe flight delays plaguing the nation's airports for more than a month, Brazilian media reported.

The flights, used mostly on package tours in Latin America's largest country, won't be allowed to operate 7-9 a.m. and 5-8 p.m. Monday-Friday, the Agencia Estado news service said.

Flights also will be grounded during the busy Sunday evening travel period, said Agencia Estado, quoting Milton Zuanazzi, who heads Brazil's National Civil Aviation Agency. Brazil has had severe flight delays since October, when air traffic controllers started a work protest that significantly slowed airline operations.

The agency took the step on chartered flights as Brazil approaches its high tourism season, from late December through April, for Brazilian travelers and foreigners visiting the country.

Zuanazzi didn't say how long the measure would last, but told reporters in Rio de Janeiro that the delays may not be completely resolved until February or March.

Lengthy delays began in late October, when air traffic controllers seeking better pay and working conditions began following regulations to the letter.

Authorities are still investigating whether actions by controllers played a role in the Sept. 29 crash above the Amazon jungle between a Gol airlines Boeing 737 and an Embraer Legacy 600 executive jet. All 154 people aboard the Gol flight were killed in what was Brazil's worst air disaster.

The delays worsened last week when authorities suspended all takeoffs from three major airports for hours, prompting a wave of unprecedented flight cancellations, after the control system in the capital of Brasilia failed. It took airlines days to get stranded passengers to their destinations.

And 30 percent of the nearly 2,000 commercial flights in Brazil on Monday were delayed by more than an hour, and about 20 percent of the flights scheduled to leave Tuesday by 10:30 a.m. were held up more than an hour, the aviation agency said.
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Old December 23rd, 2006, 08:16 AM   #152
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Brazilian president calls in air force to help stranded holiday travelers
22 December 2006

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AP) - President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva called in the Brazilian air force to help transport airline passengers on an emergency basis as long delays and overbooked planes snarled commercial flights over the busy holiday weekend.

Brazil halted ticket sales by the nation's biggest airline, Tam Linhas Aereas SA, until the situation was brought under control, aviation officials said Friday.

The Air Force Command, whose flights began after the president's announcement, said in a statement it was fulfilling a request by Silva to "relieve the difficulties currently faced by users of commercial civil aviation" across Latin America's largest country.

The air force made eight jets -- two Boeing 707s, two Boeing 737s and four Embraer EMB-145s -- available for flights between Brasilia, the nation's capital, and Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, the country's two largest cities.

The Air Force's expenses will be paid for by the airlines, which have been dogged by mechanical problems, bad weather and a protest by air traffic controllers, resulting in traveling nightmares for passengers.

Bad weather and mechanical problems with six Tam airplanes caused delays of up to 12 hours at Brazilian airports Thursday.

The National Agency of Civil Aviation, or ANAC, said it halted Tam ticket sales Friday because "predicted improvements in the treatment of passengers did not occur, with the persistence of delays."

"All airlines have delays, but Tam is the most affected," said Nadia Tavares, a spokeswoman for Brazil's airport authority, Infraero.

Calls to TAM officials went to a recorded message that told callers to try back later.

More than 1,000 stranded travelers were waiting for delayed flights Friday in Brasilia, including some 600 Tam passengers, Infraero said. Some 30 passengers invaded the tarmac, chanting "we want a plane," but were peacefully removed by police.

Of the 40 flights scheduled to take off from Brasilia on Friday morning, 18 were delayed, ANAC said. At airports in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, numerous flights were delayed and long lines of passengers stretched across the lobby.

Silva called for the airlines and regulatory agencies to account for the delays.

Brazil's airport woes began after a midair collision between a Gol airlines Boeing 737 and an Embraer Legacy 600 executive jet in late September. The Gol flight crashed in the Amazon jungle, killing 154 people in Brazil's worst air disaster. Authorities are investigating whether controller error had a role in the collision.

Soon after, air traffic controllers began following regulations to the letter in a "work-to-rule" protest to demand better pay and working conditions.

The delays worsened on Dec. 5 when air control systems at Brasilia's airport failed, and authorities suspended takeoffs from three major airports for hours, prompting an unprecedented wave of flight cancellations.
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Old January 30th, 2007, 01:02 AM   #153
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Gol Airlines (Brazil) will start flights to Lima (Peru) from different cities in Brazil, also frfom Buenos Aires and Santiago.

Also KLM will start on March direct flights from Amsterdam, and will be the first airline to use a B-777 to Lima
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Old February 1st, 2007, 07:48 PM   #154
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Brazil's Varig airline gets US$17.1 million loan from Chile's Lan
1 February 2007

SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) - Chilean airline Lan SA has loaned Brazil's airline Varig US$17.1 million (€13.2 million) in a deal that could make the Chilean company a minority shareholder in the recovering carrier, a Varig spokeswoman confirmed Thursday.

Lan's loan comes in exchange for an exclusive option for shares, Lan said Wednesday.

"While the amount of the investment doesn't have a significant effect for the company ... Lan could become a minority shareholder in the new (Varig) should the conversion option be exercised," Lan said in a securities filing.

The loan took place in September, it added.

Chilean shareholding law defines a minority stake as less than 10 percent.

Varig spokeswoman Daniela Pontes said Thursday it was not immediately clear how the company would use the loan, but analysts said it could be used to improve cash flow and help Varig offer more flights.

Varig was Brazil's leading airline for many years but its operations disintegrated in 2005 and early 2006 amid enormous debts.

In July, VarigLog, owned by a group of investors that included U.S. investment fund Matlin Patterson, bought the company's operating assets for US$24 million (€18.4 million) and sharply cut back the number of flights offered.

Varig's new owners are hoping to quadruple the airline's share of the domestic market to 20 percent by the end of 2007.

The Chilean carrier has long sought to establish a subsidiary in South America's biggest country, and has a tradition of entering foreign markets via defunct local airlines.

It has set up local units in Argentina, Ecuador and Peru as a minority shareholder, but retains operational control and branding.
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Old February 2nd, 2007, 06:37 AM   #155
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Brazil's Gol profit tumbles on flight delays

SAO PAULO, Jan 30 (Reuters) - Brazilian low-cost airline Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes said on Tuesday fourth-quarter profit fell by nearly half due to flight cancellations and delays that reduced its load factor.

Net income, calculated under U.S. accounting rules, fell to 92.7 million reais ($43.4 million) from 170.6 million reais a year earlier and 190 million reais in the 2006 third quarter.

For the whole of 2006, Gol reported a net profit of 569.1 reais, up from 513.2 million reais in 2005.

Brazilian airlines were hit twice during the peak year-end holiday travel season. Air traffic controllers staged work slow-downs in November, and nearly 40 percent of flights were delayed early in December because of faulty air control equipment in Brasilia.

Gol estimated that it lost 150 million reais in revenue in the fourth quarter and saw its costs rise by 41 million reais because of higher fuel consumption and expenses related to the canceled flights.

The company said ticket sales slumped 30 percent in December from November, and the number of no-show passengers rose because of "negative publicity" related to the flight delays.

Load factor and yields in the fourth quarter were hurt by "the bottlenecks in air traffic in the country's main airports," Gol said in its earnings statement.

The airline's load factor fell to 67.9 percent from 74.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2005, though its market share of Brazil's domestic air travel rose to 37 percent from 30 percent, Gol said.

Its main rival, TAM Linhas Aereas , finished the quarter with a 49 percent share of the domestic market.

Brazil's air traffic has faced repeated troubles since Sept. 29, when a Boeing 737 flown by Gol clipped wings with a business jet over the Amazon, causing the 737 to spin out of control and crash into the jungle, killing all 154 people on board. ($1 = 2.136 reais)
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Old February 8th, 2007, 11:37 AM   #156
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Brazil judge lifts ban on large jets at Sao Paulo airport
By TALES AZZONI
7 February 2007

SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) - An appeals court on Wednesday overturned a ban on large passenger jets at Brazil's busiest airport that had been set by a judge citing safety concerns.

The federal court ruled the ban on three types of planes was too harsh because it would have severe economic ramifications, and that there were not enough safety concerns to prevent the planes from landing and taking off at Congonhas airport.

The court sided with Brazilian Civil Aviation Authority, or ANAC, which said that measures are being taken to improve a runway that has proven too short for some jets when it rains heavily.

On Tuesday, a federal judge issued an injunction banning Fokker 100s, Boeing 737-800s and Boeing 737-700s from the airport, which handles domestic flights from all parts of Latin America's largest nation.

Officials said the ban would have affected 10,000 passengers a day and caused severe delays across Brazil. Brazil's two largest airlines -- Tam Linhas Aereas SA and Gol Linhas Inteligentes SA -- would have been forced to divert many planes to airports outside of Sao Paulo.

The injunction said the airport's main runway needs to be extended 388 meters (1,275 feet) to provide an adequate safety margin for the three aircraft -- the largest planes that use Congonhas.
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Old February 14th, 2007, 05:19 AM   #157
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Brazil's Gol plans to fly to Mexico in 2007

LIMA, Feb 13 (Reuters) - Low-cost airline Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes expects permits this year to operate flights to Mexico from Lima as it pursues aggressive expansion in the region, the Brazilian carrier said on Tuesday.

"We are working on authorization to fly to Mexico from Lima, for the Sao Paulo-Lima-Mexico route ... we are hoping to get the permit this year," said Gol's vice-president of marketing, Tarcisio Gargioni.

Gol operates about 600 flights per day, including routes to Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay. Flights started this week to Peru.

Gargioni said the airline, which wants to fly to every country in South America by 2010, is setting its targets now on flights to Venezuela and Colombia.

Last month Gol reported that fourth-quarter profit fell by nearly half due to flight cancellations and delays that reduced its load factor.

Gargioni said the company expects to boost revenue from operations by 45 percent this year, and to cut costs by 9 percent.

The company also plans to increase the size of its fleet, currently at 65 planes, to 80 planes by the end of this year and to 101 craft by 2012, Gargioni said.
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Old February 21st, 2007, 08:15 AM   #158
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Black box in Brazil crash reveals series of errors

SAO PAULO, Feb 18 (Reuters) - The cockpit voice recorder from a private jet involved in Brazil's worst ever air crash and dialogues among traffic controllers point to a series of errors and misunderstandings that may have contributed to the accident, a local newspaper reported on Sunday.

The 290-page transcript of the recordings, obtained by the Folha de S.Paulo, is part of an ongoing investigation into the causes of a mid-air collision between a Legacy business jet and a Boeing 737 on Sept. 29 that killed 154 people.

The Legacy and the Boeing, operated by Brazilian carrier Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes, clipped wings at 37,000 feet over the Amazon rain forest. The Gol plane crashed into the jungle, killing everyone on board.

The Legacy, made by Brazilian jet maker Embraer, made an emergency landing at a remote airstrip after losing a winglet. The plane had just been delivered to ExcelAire, a charter service based in Ronkonkoma, New York.

The recordings, parts of which were published by Folha, show that the ExcelAire pilots had trouble understanding the English spoken by Brazilian air traffic controllers. The plane was flown by Joseph Lepore, 42, and Jan Paladino, 34, both of New York state.

According to the transcript, which Folha translated into Portuguese, the control tower in Sao Jose dos Campos authorized the Legacy before take-off to fly at 37,000 feet but made no mention of other altitudes foreseen in the original flight plan. Apparently unsure of what they heard, the pilots asked three times for clarification without getting a response.

The transcript, which was prepared by the National Transportation Safety Board in Washington, also shows that air traffic controllers in Brasilia mistakenly believed that the Legacy was flying at 36,000 feet.

The recordings suggest that Lepore and Paladino never saw the Boeing on their radar screen. At the time of impact, one of the pilots said: "What the hell was that?" Almost a half hour passed before they mentioned the possibility that they might have collided with another plane.

A spokesman for the Brazilian Air Force, which is leading the investigation, would not confirm or deny the content of the transcript. He insisted, however, that the document was not leaked by the Air Force and complained that its publication could hamper the investigation.

The transcript appears to corroborate the findings of a preliminary report in November by the Air Force, which pointed to potential problems with the Legacy's Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System.

The recordings confirm that the Legacy's transponder, which tracks a plane's position relative to the ground and other aircraft, was either turned off or had malfunctioned. They also show that the pilots did not realize the problem until after the collision.

Under Brazilian law, it is the control tower's responsibility to notify a pilot when an aircraft's transponder is not working properly. (Additional reporting by Alberto Alerigi Jr.)
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Old February 27th, 2007, 08:41 AM   #159
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Brazilian aviation official calls for bigger foreign stakes in airlines
23 February 2007

SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) - Rules restricting ownership of Brazilian airlines should be relaxed to let foreign companies control much larger stakes, a leading government aviation official said Friday.

The limit on foreign participation in Brazilian airlines should be boosted from the current 20 percent to 49 percent, said National Civil Aviation Authority President Milton Zuanazzi, according to the Agencia Estado news service.

"Twenty percent is a very small amount," Zuanazzi said, adding that a bill proposing such a change is being presented in Congress.

Raising the cap on foreign ownership would likely increase foreign investment in South America's largest air travel market. It could also help struggling airline Viacao Aerea Rio-Grandense SA, or Varig, regain market share it lost after it imploded under crushing debt last year.

Last month Chilean carrier LAN Airline SA offered US$17 million (euro12.9 million) in credit to Varig. But current laws limit LAN or other companies from more aggressive moves to help Varig try to regain its spot as Brazil's top airline, such as pumping cash into the company in return for a larger stake.

Varig was Brazil's largest airline and the nation's flagship carrier until financial troubles led it to be auctioned off last year in bankruptcy proceedings.

Brazil's largest carriers are now Tam Linhas Aereas SA and Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes SA.
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Old March 20th, 2007, 10:12 AM   #160
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Brazil's Air Traffic System Again Fails
19 March 2007

SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) - Brazil's airlines were trying to make up for lengthy flight delays Monday after its troubled air traffic control system failed over the weekend, stranding travelers just months after a breakdown that enraged thousands of passengers.

A control center in Brasilia that monitors flights through the nation's populous southeast region had suffered a communications equipment failure, Brazil's Defense Ministry said in a statement.

Then power went out at the airport in Brasilia, making the problem worse, officials confirmed Monday. Unusually heavy rains in Sao Paulo put even more strain on the system.

Nearly 30 percent of the flights scheduled for takeoff by Monday afternoon across Latin America's largest nation were delayed, the official Agencia Brasil news service said. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva held an emergency meeting with high-level advisers and ordered them to put in place "effective and efficient" backup systems to put an end to the travel woes.

Authorities believe a software problem caused the breakdown, which prompted controllers to take safety measures, boosting the amount of time between takeoffs and landings at the country's busiest airports.

Though passengers were angered at the delays and spent hours waiting in airports and aboard parked planes, there wasn't a repeat of the chaotic wave of cancellations and delays just ahead of the busy Christmas travel season caused by equipment failures and a work slowdown by controllers.

Authorities first predicted Brazilian flight departures would return to normal by Monday but later extended their estimate to Tuesday afternoon.

The flight delays began several months after a collision between a Gol airlines Boeing 737 and an Embraer Legacy 600 executive jet killed 154 passengers on Sept. 29 in the country's worst air disaster.

After the crash, air traffic controllers significantly slowed airline operations by following regulations to the letter in a "work-to-rule" protest to demand better pay and working conditions.
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