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Old April 20th, 2007, 07:31 PM   #161
hkskyline
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Brazil Gol Q1 profit sinks on flight cancellations

BRASILIA, April 19 (Reuters) - Low-cost Brazilian airline Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes said on Thursday its first-quarter profit fell by more than a third due to flight cancellations and delays that reduced its load factor.

Gol said ongoing problems in Brazil's air traffic system caused flight cancellations that affected travel demand and in turn eroded its passenger occupancy rates in the first quarter.

Net income, calculated under U.S. accounting rules, fell to 116.6 million reais ($57.4 million) from 179.8 million reais in the same quarter last year and 92.7 million reais in the fourth quarter of 2006.

Gol shares fell 0.85 percent to 29.10 reais in Sao Paulo Thursday before the results were released.

The average fare paid by passengers fell 22 percent in the first quarter, and Gol's load factor slipped to 69.8 percent from 70.6 percent in the same quarter a year ago.

Net revenue from passengers rose 18 percent from the year earlier, but operating costs rose twice as much, increasing 43 percent on the year.

Brazil's air traffic has had trouble since Sept. 29, when a Boeing 737 flown by Gol clipped wings with a business jet over the Amazon, causing the 737 to crash into the jungle.

Air traffic controllers have staged periodic work slowdowns to protest work conditions and faulty equipment, causing hundreds of flight delays and cancellations.

In April Gol paid $320 million in cash, stock and debt to buy smaller rival Varig, which controls coveted slots in Sao Paulo's Congonhas airport and routes to the United States and Europe.

The acquisition will bring Gol's domestic market share closer to that of its main rival, TAM Linhas Aereas, which controls nearly half of Brazil's domestic air travel.

Gol's share of the domestic air travel market was 38.5 percent at the end of the first quarter compared with 28.8 percent a year ago.

The incorporation of Varig's fleet and the planned addition of another Boeing 737 in the second quarter should increase Gol's overall number of seats available per kilometer flown by about 80 percent.

Gol forecast a load factor of 71 percent for the second quarter and more or less 72 percent by the end of the year.

Long-term debt rose to 1.43 billion reais at the end of March from 949 million reais three months before.
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Old April 22nd, 2007, 07:42 AM   #162
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U.S. company blames faulty Brazilian air traffic control for fatal crash
21 April 2007

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AP) - ExcelAire said faulty Brazilian air traffic control was to blame for a middair collision between one of the U.S. company's executive jets and a commercial airliner that killed 154 people in Brazil's deadliest air disaster.

The Gol airlines Boeing 737 and an ExcelAire Legacy 600 jet clipped each other Sept. 29 over the Amazon jungle. The Gol airlines jet crashed, killing all aboard, and the Legacy jet landed safely.

In a 154-page report to Brazilian federal police this month -- released Saturday to The Associated Press -- ExcelAire said an analysis of air traffic control transmissions and the black boxes in the Legacy "confirmed that both planes were freed by Air Traffic Control to fly at the same altitude and the same path, in opposite directions."

Brazilian officials were not immediately available to comment on the report.

Brazilian investigators say the controllers bear some responsibility for the crash but Defense Minister Waldir Pires recently defended Brazil's air traffic control system as one of the safest in the world.

Pires suggested the collision was the fault of the ExcelAire jet's American pilots because the Legacy's transponder, which operates the aircraft's anti-collision system, was not turned on or malfunctioned.

Family members of those killed in the crash have filed lawsuits in federal court in Miami seeking millions of dollars (euros) in damages. They claim the Legacy pilots did not maintain proper altitude or properly communicate with Brazilian air traffic controllers.

Ronkonkoma, N.Y.-based ExcelAire's report also said there were problems with some of the equipment aboard the Legacy, made by Brazilian manufacturer Embraer.

"An avionics component, where some radio communications systems and one of the transponders are installed, was returned to Honeywell ( Honeywell International Inc.), the manufacturer, in April 2006 because of operational problems," the report said.

"Despite the functional problems verified in these components ... Embraer decided to install them in the Legacy sold to ExcelAire," it said.

The Legacy was flying from the southern city of Sao Jose dos Campos to the United States when the accident occurred at 37,000 feet (11,300 meters), an altitude usually reserved for flights headed in the opposite direction.

Legacy pilots Joseph Lepore and Jan Paladino, both of New York, were accused by police of exposing an aircraft to danger. They have agreed to return to Brazil to face any criminal charges.
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Old May 23rd, 2007, 07:22 AM   #163
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Poor radar coverage cited in Brazil crash involving LI pilots
22 May 2007

BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) - The president of the Brazilian flight controllers union said Tuesday that poor worker training and radar coverage contributed to the country's deadliest plane crash, which involved two pilots from Long Island and killed 154 people.

Testifying before a congressional commission investigating Brazil's troubled air traffic control system, Jorge Botelho said aviation authorities share responsibility for the midair collision for not adequately schooling controllers in English. He said the country's radar coverage also has blind spots.

"In my view, the controllers could have erred," Botelho said, "but I can't accept punishing the controllers without punishing the authorities that didn't provide the adequate means or didn't overcome the deficiencies that could have brought the controllers to the accident."

On Sept. 29, an Embraer Legacy 600 executive jet collided with a Gol airlines Boeing 737 over the Amazon rain forest. The Gol plane crashed, killing everyone aboard, while the Legacy, owned by Ronkonkoma, N.Y.-based ExcelAire, landed safely.

The disaster touched off months of nationwide protests by air controllers, who complained of precarious work conditions.

Officials are also considering whether to bring charges against the two pilots of the Legacy, saying they failed to notice the jet's transponder was not signaling the plane's location at the time of the crash.

The pilots, Joseph Lepore, of Bay Shore, N.Y., and Jan Paladino, of Westhampton Beach, N.Y., have repeatedly denied wrongdoing and say controllers approved their flight course.
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Old June 22nd, 2007, 07:06 AM   #164
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INTERVIEW-Brazil's Gol cuts costs, bets on Varig expansion

SAO PAULO, June 21 (Reuters) - Low-cost Brazilian airline Gol, known for ticketless check-ins and granola bar lunches, has tightened the belt further since buying rival Varig in April and the cost cuts should bear fruit this year, Chief Executive Officer Constantino Oliveira said.

Since the $320 million takeover, Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes , has returned inefficient planes, renegotiated fuel contracts and leasing agreements for Varig's jets to bring costs lower.

Gol, Brazil's No. 2 carrier after TAM Linhas Aereas , is also in talks to change Varig's insurance contracts and is negotiating new deals for baggage handling and plane pushback across Brazil, in Frankfurt and Buenos Aires.

"We have reviewed Varig from top to bottom," Oliveira told Reuters in an interview on Thursday. "Naturally, we took over a company that was still in a difficult situation. We expect to reverse that and look for a break-even in the short term."

Once Latin America's largest airline, Varig emerged from bankruptcy protection last July after being sold for $24 million to a group of investors including U.S. investment fund Matlin Patterson.

Gol on Wednesday cut its forecast for 2007 net sales, operating margin and earnings per share. Oliveira said the company had to lower ticket prices to attract passengers, as concerns resurfaced over lengthy airport delays due to workers protesting the state of Brazil's air traffic system.

"Despite having a pretty calm start to the second quarter, another of these work slowdowns (by controllers) ends up really affecting airlines," Oliveira said. "We hope these problems are solved very fast."

Airline ticket prices should recoup slightly, though average prices this year will be lower than those in 2006 because of increased competition from TAM and smaller rivals BRA Transportes Aereos and Oceanair, according to Oliveira.

"There should be a recovery in prices because they are lower than normal as a result of this turmoil," he said.

To expand Varig's domestic presence, Gol plans to renew the company's fleet of 16 Boeing 737 jets with 737-800 planes, which should help save on fuel costs, Oliveira said. Varig should receive five 737-800s beginning in September and another four between March and April of 2008.

For long-range jets, Gol expects to close by the end of 2007 a new contract to renew Varig's fleet, and the company is in talks with both Boeing and Airbus , Oliveira said. The deal would be for Boeing 787s or Airbus 350s planes.

INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS

Gol will seek to avoid losing Varig's international flight allotments, which have not been used after Varig stopped serving several destinations while under bankruptcy protection. TAM is vying for the unused international slots, which are closely regulated by international agreements.

Gol has ordered 14 Boeing 767s as it expands Varig's international flights. Ten of those will be in operation in 2007 and the remainder next year, Oliveira said. The company plans to fly to Madrid, Rome, London and Paris by the end of year, in addition to Mexico City.

"We won't lose any of those routes if all that we have planned and are carrying out comes to fruition," he said. "Naturally, our competitors are defending their interests."

Flights to Miami and New York in the United States will be resumed in 2008, he said.
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Old July 18th, 2007, 01:06 PM   #165
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Brazilian plane crash 'kills 200'

Brazilian plane crash 'kills 200'

The plane skidded across a main road before hitting a fuel depot
A passenger plane has crashed and burst into flames at Brazil's busiest airport, in the heart of Sao Paulo, killing up to 200 people.
Rescue crews said none of the 176 people on board the Airbus A320 could have survived, while more people were killed on the ground.

The TAM airliner skidded off the runway as it landed in wet weather, shot over a busy road and hit a fuel depot.

Concerns had been raised about the safety of the runway during heavy rain.

There had been persistent, heavy downpours in the two hours before the accident.

The plane was travelling to Sao Paulo, Brazil's financial capital, from Porto Alegre in the south of the country.

After touching down on the main runway at 1850 (2150 GMT) on Tuesday, the jet began to skid and then dropped down a steep slope at the end of the runway.

It then shot over a major road and crashed into a four-storey building used for storing cargo and fuel.

The warehouse was busy with airport workers, some of whom had to jump out of windows.

The plane's tail could later be seen sticking out from the building in flames.

Fires were still burning hours after the crash, with black smoke trailing off into the night sky.

An eyewitness, TAM employee Elias Rodrigues Jesus, said the plane exploded after slamming into the depot.

"All of a sudden I heard a loud explosion, and the ground beneath my feet shook," he told the Associated Press news agency.

"I looked up and I saw a huge ball of fire, and then I smelled the stench of kerosene and sulphur."

A doctor at Sao Paulo's mortuary said 30 badly charred bodies had been brought in.

Sao Paulo State Governor Jose Serra said: "I was told that the temperature inside the plane was 1,000C [1,830F], so the chances of there being any survivors are practically nil."

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva declared three days of national mourning for the victims.

Safety concerns

The weather had been bad for much of the day and there has been concern for some time about safety at Congonhas during heavy rain.

On Monday, a smaller plane skidded off the runway onto the nearby grass in similar conditions.

In February, a judge briefly banned three types of large passenger jet from using the runway because it was too short to accommodate them, and because of concerns over the airport's drainage system

Pilots had complained that water was pooling on the surface of the landing strip, making braking difficult and occasionally causing planes to skid out of control.

Remedial work, including laying a new surface, has been carried out in recent months.

Air safety in Brazil has been a major issue since a crash last year when a passenger plane collided with an executive jet over the Amazon, killing some 154 people.

(source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6903837.stm)
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Old July 18th, 2007, 03:41 PM   #166
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What a tragedy...

Here is the satellite picture of the scene showing end of the runway (35L), the roadway crossed and the T-shape building on the left is the gas station exploded.
http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=e...wloc=addr&om=1

Does anyone know what is the approximate landing distance for an fully passenger and cargo loaded A320 in an dry and no wind condition assuming fuel tank is relatively empty?
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Old July 18th, 2007, 04:19 PM   #167
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Oh god...!! I sad!!
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Old July 20th, 2007, 01:17 AM   #168
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I heard about this while waiting in the Hong Kong terminal for a flight to Australia. Very tragic and very unnerving.
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Old July 20th, 2007, 02:58 AM   #169
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Is Congonhas equipped to handle 100% automatic landings in zero visibility? I found one article somewhere that, when mangled into semi-English by Babelfish, seemed to suggest that both of Sao Paolo's airports, Rio's main airport, and Buenos Aires' international airport all have ILS, but for some reason it couldn't translate a block of text that had "Congonhas" and "2006" in the same sentence. The article itself was from early 2007, so I'm kind of guessing that it might be in place, but not actually be in service (or at least routinely used) yet.
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Old July 20th, 2007, 09:00 AM   #170
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Quote:
Originally Posted by miamicanes View Post
Is Congonhas equipped to handle 100% automatic landings in zero visibility? I found one article somewhere that, when mangled into semi-English by Babelfish, seemed to suggest that both of Sao Paolo's airports, Rio's main airport, and Buenos Aires' international airport all have ILS, but for some reason it couldn't translate a block of text that had "Congonhas" and "2006" in the same sentence. The article itself was from early 2007, so I'm kind of guessing that it might be in place, but not actually be in service (or at least routinely used) yet.
Im not sure if the airport has it, but for it to work the airplane needs to have a compatible system. For example, Curitiba has such a system but only GOL planes used it during heavy fog, all other airlines had delays. This was 3 years ago, and TAM was mostly using Fokker-100 from Curitiba
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Old July 20th, 2007, 01:12 PM   #171
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that's sad
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Old July 21st, 2007, 05:52 AM   #172
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An accident waiting to happen? Brazil
21 July 2007
The Economist

THE past year has been a terrible one for Brazil's airlines. On the night of July 17th a packed Airbus 320 jet operated by TAM, the country's leading airline, overshot the runway at So Paulo's Congonhas airport, slid across a busy road and slammed into a nearby warehouse, exploding on impact. All 186 people aboard the flight from Porto Alegre died in the fireball, as well as several more on the ground, making this the worst disaster in the history of civil aviation in Brazil.

The scenes of airports brimming with desperate relatives were horribly familiar. Last September 154 passengers died when a Gol airlines Boeing 737 plunged into the Amazon rainforest after a mid-air collision with an executive jet. Ever since, the country's airline industry has limped from one crisis to another, including chronically delayed flights, rebellious air-traffic controllers and a spate of minor accidents and near-misses.

Within hours of the crash, speculation and finger-pointing began. It happened in driving rain and wind. The pilot is said to have touched down too late and too fast, leaving little room for braking and no margin for error.

But some experts argue that this was an accident waiting to happen. Congonhas's short runways are wedged into the heart of one the world's biggest cities. In February a federal judge banned Fokker 100s and Boeing 737s from using the airport for safety reasons. The ban was later overturned as too “drastic”. The problem is that Congonhas is Brazil's busiest airport, a vital commuter hub. So Paulo's international airport is an hour's drive from the city.

Pilots and engineers counter that airport conditions, not size or location, are what count. Therein lie doubts. On June 29th Infraero, the state airports agency, re-opened the main runway at Congonhas, closed for resurfacing after several planes skidded while landing in rain. Still missing, it is claimed, were the drainage grooves that siphon off rainwater. In a recorded conversation, one pilot warned another: “Be careful not to touch down too late, because it's very slippery.” Infraero denies that the crash was caused by water on the runway. But public confidence has been shattered. The whole governance of Brazilian aviation, split between civilians and military men, needs investigation and reform.
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Old July 21st, 2007, 08:17 AM   #173
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Quote:
Originally Posted by miamicanes View Post
Is Congonhas equipped to handle 100% automatic landings in zero visibility?
Only Runway 17R at Congonhas is ILS equipped and it is just a [standard] Category I system. Very few airports have Cat III [A/B/C] ILS systems which are capable of landing a plane on autopilot [with the right equipment installed on the aircraft as well] and they are usually located on coastlines and other places that are suceptible to heavy fog. Cat III systems are very expensive.

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Old July 21st, 2007, 09:28 AM   #174
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the runway is tooooooooooo short
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Old July 21st, 2007, 09:01 PM   #175
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Quote:
the runway is tooooooooooo short
Sort of. There are busy urban airports in the US that are almost exactly like Congonhas. Chicago Midway, just to name one. LaGuardia in New York City, to name another. The old airport in Fort Myers, Florida (Page Field) used to be one (its final year before the Southwest Florida International Airport opened in 1984, just about every jet that landed and took off was a L-1011 because they were the biggest jets allowed there).

The difference is, in the US, jets aren't allowed to make scheduled, non-emergency landings at any airport where the runway isn't long enough to come to a safe stop without relying on thrust reversers. In other words, airlines are allowed to use them in lieu of autobraking to cut maintenance costs, but they can't intentionally put themselves into a position where they NEED them to safely stop. Actually, I think Brazil (and most other countries) have that exact same rule (I remember reading that a judge banned 737s from landing at Congonhas a while ago... his authority to do so might have come from that exact rule if he felt the airport's management was openly violating it).

In this case, it's looking like the fault lies with just about everyone... the airport's management, the airline, and the pilot. The airline, for apparently not bothering to tell the pilot that the thrust reversers were disabled (and for scheduling planes to land at Congonhas under conditions known by the airline to make landing with brakes alone difficult/impossible). The airport, for allowing a jet to land on a runway in conditions where other planes had already shown difficulty landing with brakes alone, and the pilot, for intentionally proceeding to attempt a landing under conditions where he KNEW (or should have known) that he'd HAVE to use the thrust reversers to stop in time.

That's not to say Congonhas shouldn't have infrastructure improvements. If it's the busiest airport in Brazil, it would be pretty hard for its government to argue that they wouldn't be justified. Extending the runway is probably impractical, but there are other things they can do that are a lot cheaper. For instance, they can put engineered collapsible concrete at the end of the runway that crushes and acts like quicksand if the jet runs off the runway (they did this at Burbank airport in California). Class III ILS would help, too, by enabling pilots to land closer to the runway's beginning with greater precision, giving them another 500-1000 feet than they might have if they landed manually.

Last edited by miamicanes; July 21st, 2007 at 09:12 PM.
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Old July 21st, 2007, 11:27 PM   #176
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@miami canes --would a collapsible concrete prevent loss of lives if and overshooting aircraft slam into it? I imagine it will lessen the casualties inside the aircraft alone and prevent it from going pass the perimeter fence and airport property.

Extending the runway might be a bit costly but if it will prevent further loss of lives during crash landing or a plane overshooting a runway is still well worth a try. I'd say both should be put in place in a busy airport like Congonhas, extend the runway and setting up a collapsible concrete at the very end of the runway. The Brazilian government should also start imposing a stiffer rules regarding airline companies and airport safety as mandated by FAA regulations or whomever is responsible for imposing international airport and airlines safety standard.

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Old July 22nd, 2007, 12:48 AM   #177
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The collapsible concrete probably wouldn't have helped to prevent THIS accident, because the pilot was trying to take off again. However, if the pilot had kept on the brakes, the plane might have slowed down enough for the collapsible concrete to work.

Midway in Chicago is a great example of an American airport with a similar problem. Its "best" (longest) runway approach is from the southwest, because there are usually winds blowing southwest from the lake. This allows the plane to be moving slower (relative to the ground), because what matters relative to lift is the speed of the air over the wings. The problem is, they rarely approach from that direction, because it interferes with the flight pattern for O'Hare. Compounding matters, the northern ~1000 feet of the runway can't be used for landings due to power lines (it blows me away that they wouldn't view that as sufficient reason to bury the lines that are in the direct flight path). So... planes coming in normally approach from the north, with a tail wind (that requires them to be going faster at touchdown), AND lose about a thousand feet of the runway. Nice. I have to admit, this definitely makes me reconsider the wisdom of flying into Midway just to save $25 instead of flying into O'Hare... at least, during the winter. (Incidentally, Midway had a similar accident a few years ago, but the only fatality was a 6 year old boy who was in a car that got crushed by a landing plane as it ran beyond the runway, through the barrier wall, and came to a stop in the middle of a major intersection.

I've never seen Congonhas, but from the pics and Google Earth, it looks like the only major impediment to extending the runway at least another thousand feet or so is the road. If they bridged the runway over the road (like they're doing at Atlanta airport), they could probably extend it at least another thousand feet before they got to any really expensive buildings.

Apparently, though, short (by modern new-airport standards) runways at secondary big-city airports are the norm. Houston IAH vs Hobby, DFW vs Dallas Love Field, Laguardia vs JFK, etc. The long runways at Miami and Orlando are almost a lucky accident, happening mainly because both airports were built after air travel became the norm, but before the two cities really exploded from medium-sized cities into Megalopoli. In Miami's case, the east-west expressways came AFTER the airports did, so few people back then lived more than 3 or 4 miles inland (hell, even 15 years ago, the area directly west of MIA was a half step above primordial jungle). In Orlando's case, MCO sits on what used to be McCoy Air Force Base (hence its initials, "MCO"). Both Miami and Orlando's "original" airports are now closed to commercial passenger flights, so they're largely irrelevant to travel now. However, both Opa-Locka (Miami's "real" airport up until sometime in the 1960s) and Orlando Executive Airport have relatively short runways (not as short as Congonhas, but still pretty short).

Last edited by miamicanes; July 22nd, 2007 at 01:15 AM.
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Old August 3rd, 2007, 04:00 AM   #178
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Brazil airline TAM sales drop 30 pct after crash

BRASILIA, Aug 2 (Reuters) - Sales for Brazil's TAM Linhas Aereas have dropped 30 percent since one of its planes barreled down a slick runway, crashed into a warehouse and burst into flames, Chief Executive Marco Antonio Bologna said on Tuesday.

Sales have fallen due to various factors, including ongoing chaos in air travel in Brazil, the end of local holidays and measures taken by aviation authorities since the crash, Bologna told lawmakers in comments confirmed by the company.

Bologna spoke to Brazilian lawmakers who are investigating 10 months of on-and-off chaos in the air traffic system.

The chaos boiled over on July 17, when the TAM crash became the worst air disaster in Brazil's history. The accident killed all 187 people on the plane and at least 12 more on the ground, among them TAM employees working in the warehouse.

Bologna said TAM's insurance will pay up to $1.5 billion to the families of victims and others injured by the accident. TAM will pay any additional amount required, he said.

Brazil's complex and often slow judicial system tends to favor companies in reaching settlements with injured parties.

But the family of one passenger who died in the crash has already filed suit against TAM in a U.S. court, and almost a dozen more are in talks with the same law firm.

The suit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for Southern Florida, also names aircraft manufacturer Airbus , the Goodrich Corp. , and International Aero Engines (IAE) as defendants.

Authorities are still investigating the accident but aviation experts have said that, based on information made public, mechanical or pilot errors may have contributed.

The jet was an Airbus 320, and TAM has said one of its thrust reversers, which aid braking by reversing air flow through the engines, was shut down because of a defect.

Thrust reversers are not required for safe landing. TAM has said the Airbus manual allows airlines to keep flying a craft with an inoperable thrust reverser for up to 10 days before repairing it.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva fired his defense minister, Brazil's top aviation official, in the wake of the TAM crash. The new minister has initiated a restructuring of national air traffic.

The TAM crash occurred 10 months after what had been Brazil's worst air disaster. Two planes clipped wings in mid-air over the Amazon, and a Boeing operated by Gol Linhas Aereas plunged into the jungle, killing all 154 people on board.
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Old November 14th, 2007, 08:38 AM   #179
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Brazil's Gol Struggles Amid Air Crisis
13 November 2007

NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--When Brazil's Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes SA (GOL) launched shares in Sao Paulo and New York in June 2004, it sounded like an investor's dream - a new, extremely profitable airline from a corner of the world where more and more people were ditching buses to hop on planes.

But three years later, investors are not so sure Gol has really scored. Questions about whether Gol is still true to the low-cost carrier model after a major acquisition, coupled with an ongoing crisis in the Brazilian civil aviation sector, have left too much uncertainty on the table.

The skies became cloudy for civil aviation in Brazil in September 2006, when a Gol airliner crashed with an executive jet mid-air, killing all 154 people onboard the Gol plane.

Meanwhile, earlier this year, Gol bought the assets of legacy airline Varig, the antithesis of all that Gol seemed to stand for.

More recently, management has been under fire for lowering financial guidance in October and then again earlier this month. There's also been chatter regarding a stock buyback and interest from other investors, including private-equity groups, in buying Gol.

"They are not really giving people much of a sense of where they are going, or where the company stands," Citi analyst Steve Trent said.

Gol's 2004 IPO was three times oversubscribed, with international investors snapping up some two-thirds of the shares offered. Their enthusiasm was justified: A year earlier, Gol was the world's second-most profitable carrier after Ireland's Ryanair Holdings PLC (RYAAY), one of the pioneer low-cost airlines.

Gol, with a catchy name that translates to soccer's goal followed by "smart airline" in Portuguese, seemed ready to reap the benefits of being the sole budget airline in Brazil. The company, led by the young scion of the Constantino family, which has ties to the Brazilian transportation market, offered flights to anyone with Internet access and as little as BRL1 (56 cents) in his or her pockets. In its early days, Gol did many BRL1 promotions on one-way flights.

But with the hit the shares have been taking lately - down almost 16% so far this month - Gol's management has said the Constantino family was considering a share buyback. Management was mum in a third-quarter conference call Wednesday regarding any repurchase plans or the private-equity interest in the company.

Chief Financial Officer and Vice President Richard Lark did say that controlling shareholders continue to mull alternatives and that the market would be notified in due course if anything concrete took place.

On acquiring Varig assets, Gol said it is working to incorporate the low-cost model that made it successful into the daily operations of Varig, or VRG, as the company is now called. After buying Varig assets, Gol Linhas Aereas became the parent company of GOL Transportes Aereos and VRG Linhas Aereas.

"We have re-negotiated leasing contracts, reduced maintenance reserves, and adjusted sales commissions through contract negotiations. Lastly, we are redesigning VRG's organizational structure to increase productivity while hiring additional employees, and reducing IT costs through outsourcing and re-negotiated contracts," Gol said in a written statement.

But the company's bottom line has been hurt - shares of Gol have fallen nearly 17% in the last 12 months and receded 4.3% in the last three months. Meanwhile, arch-rival TAM SA (TAM), Brazil's dominant airline, has lost 9.9% in the last 12 months and gained 0.1% in the past three months.

Brazil's aviation crisis also hurts TAM's stock, but analysts are more positive on TAM, as the company has a stronger foothold on international flights. TAM has made no acquisitions recently, so there's no integration risk for the firm.

Gol trades at a premium compared to TAM. According to Factset, Gol's 2008 price-to-earnings ratio hovers around 23, while TAM's P/E ratio stands at 14. That premium was justified when Gol followed the low-cost carrier model, but since the company acquired Varig's assets, "that argument entirely goes out the window," Trent said. "Gol is no longer a pure LCC," he added.

For Boston-based fund manager Urban Larson, with F&C Management, Gol's strategy in buying Varig assets is "unproven," given that the company "was quite successful as a LCC."

In the past, F&C has owned Gol shares, but the fund got out when "uncertainty surrounding the (Brazilian civil aviation) sector did not make us want to continue holding the stock," Larson said. He declined to disclose when he sold his positions on Gol.

Gol's plane crash last year exposed infrastructure weaknesses in the Brazilian civil aviation sector, which was giving signs it was ill-equipped to handle increased demand. Since then, the industry has had to cope with frequent air traffic controller strikes, management upheaval in the regulating agency, and other wrinkles leading to stranded passengers and scores of chronically late planes or canceled flights.

The crisis hit rock bottom in July, when a TAM airliner overran the runway and went down in flames at Sao Paulo's Congonhas airport, killing 199 people. That led to restrictions to operations in the airport, one of Brazil's busiest.

Gol saw its operations, heavily reliant on Congonhas, deeply affected. The company reported third-quarter net profit of BRL45.5 million, down from BRL190 million in the same period a year ago.

Small Brazilian airline BRA Transportes Aereos last week temporarily suspended all its flights amid financial problems. Gol and other Brazilian air carriers have been honoring BRA tickets.

But not all the news is bad for Gol. On Thursday, UBS Investment Research upgraded Gol to hold from sell, thanks to the bank's belief there's room for better profits. "We highlight significantly stronger than expected (October) passenger traffic ... coupled with BRA's struggles as key supporting arguments," UBS said.

Time may very well be on Gol's side. Market participants say that despite the current problems, the airline's long-term story, on the back of domestic demand trends, still looks interesting, since demand for flights is expected to continue to grow in Latin America and in Brazil.
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Old November 27th, 2007, 05:43 AM   #180
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Skies Cloud for Brazilian Airline
21 November 2007
The Wall Street Journal

When Brazil's Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes SA listed in Sao Paulo and New York in June 2004, it sounded like an investor's dream -- a new, very profitable airline from a corner of the world where more and more people were ditching buses to hop on planes.

But three years later, investors aren't so sure Gol has really scored. Questions about whether Gol is still true to the low-cost carrier model after a major acquisition, coupled with a continuing crisis in the Brazilian civil aviation sector, have left investors uncertain.

The skies became cloudy for civil aviation in Brazil in September 2006, when a Gol airliner crashed in midair with an executive jet, killing all 154 people on board the Gol plane.

Earlier this year, Gol bought the assets of legacy airline Varig. More recently, management has been under fire for lowering financial guidance in October and then again earlier this month. There's also been talk of a stock buyback and interest from other investors, including private-equity groups, in buying Gol.

"They are not really giving people much of a sense of where they are going, or where the company stands," Citi analyst Steve Trent said.

Gol's 2004 IPO was three times oversubscribed, with international investors snapping up two-thirds of the shares offered. Their enthusiasm was understandable: A year earlier, Gol was the world's second most profitable carrier, after low-cost pioneer Ryanair Holdings PLC of Ireland.

Gol, with a catchy name that translates to a soccer goal, followed by "smart airline," seemed ready to reap the benefits of being the sole budget airline in Brazil. The company, led by a member of the Constantino family, which has ties to the Brazilian transportation market, offered flights to anyone with Internet access and as little as one real (57 cents) in his or her pocket. In its early days, Gol did many one-real promotions on one-way flights.

But the shares have taken a hit lately, and were down almost 16% by mid-November. Gol's management has said the Constantino family was considering a share buyback. In a third-quarter conference call last week, management didn't discuss any repurchase plans or the private-equity interest in the company. Chief Financial Officer and Vice President Richard Lark did say that controlling shareholders continue to mull alternatives and that the market would be notified in due course if anything concrete took place.

After it bought Varig's assets, Gol Linhas Aereas became the parent company of GOL Transportes Aereos and VRG Linhas Aereas. Gol said it is working to incorporate its low-cost model into the daily operations of Varig, or VRG, as the company is now called.

"We have renegotiated leasing contracts, reduced maintenance reserves, and adjusted sales commissions through contract negotiations," Gol said. "We are redesigning VRG's organizational structure to increase productivity while hiring additional employees, and reducing IT costs through outsourcing." Nonetheless, the company's bottom line still has been hurt.

Brazil's aviation crisis also has damped the stock price of TAM SA, the country's dominant airline, but analysts are more positive on TAM, as the company has a stronger foothold on international flights. TAM has made no acquisitions recently.

Gol trades at a premium compared with TAM. According to Factset, Gol's 2008 price/earnings ratio hovers around 23, while TAM's P/E ratio stands at 14. That premium was justified when Gol followed the low-cost carrier model, but since the company acquired Varig's assets, "that argument entirely goes out the window," Citi's Mr. Trent said. Gol is no longer a pure low-cost carrier, he added.

Boston-based fund manager Urban Larson, of F&C Management, said Gol's strategy in buying Varig assets is "unproven," given that the company "was quite successful as an LCC."

In the past, F&C has owned Gol shares, but the fund got out when "uncertainty surrounding the [Brazilian civil aviation] sector did not make us want to continue holding the stock," Mr. Larson said. He declined to disclose when he sold his positions on Gol.

Gol's plane crash last year exposed infrastructure weaknesses in the Brazilian civil-aviation sector. Since then, the industry has had to cope with frequent air-traffic-controller strikes, management upheaval at the regulating agency, and other wrinkles leading to stranded passengers and scores of chronically late planes or canceled flights.

The crisis was at its worst in July, when a TAM airliner overran the runway and went down in flames at Sao Paulo's Congonhas airport, killing 199 people. That led to restrictions to operations in the airport, one of Brazil's busiest.

Gol's operations, heavily reliant on Congonhas, were deeply affected. The company reported third-quarter net profit of 45.5 million reals, down from 190 million reals in the same period a year ago.

Not all the news is bad for Gol. On Nov. 8, UBS Investment Research upgraded Gol to hold from sell, thanks to the bank's belief there's room for better profits. "We highlight significantly stronger than expected [October] passenger traffic . . . coupled with BRA's struggles as key supporting arguments," UBS said.

Time may very well be on Gol's side. Market participants say that despite the current problems, the airline's long-term story, on the back of domestic demand trends, still looks interesting, since demand for flights is expected to continue to grow in Latin America and in Brazil.
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