Brazil TAM Back to Congonhas After Air Tragedy But Only on Sunny Days

Brazilian airplanes Brazilian authorities reopened the main runway at Brazil's busiest airport on Friday for the first time since a TAM Airbus 320 jetliner crashed there on July 17, killing at least 199 people. A TAM flight was the first to touch down on the 6,362-foot main runway, but the airline has imposed new restrictions since the crash, saying it will only use Congonhas airport, which is close to downtown São Paulo, when it is not raining.

The airport had been restricted to a 4,711-foot backup since the crash while investigators tried to determine if the main runway's condition played a role in the accident. Both runways are relatively short by modern standards.

Flight 3054, an Airbus A320, landed in driving rain and seemed to accelerate rather than slowing on the main runway before crashing into buildings at 109 mph and exploding.

The accident created more chaos in Brazil's air travel industry, led to the ouster of the defense minister and prompted a safety advisory from Airbus, though authorities have not yet publicized what they learned from the plane's data recorders.

Airbus spokeswoman Barbara Kracht would not specify the nature of the information from the data recorder and said that the advisory did not imply any conclusion about the causes of the crash.

On Friday, the newly appointed Defense minister, Nelson Jobim, made a personal inspection of the Congonhas airport and the terminal where the Airbus crashed and exploded. Jobim also met with São Paulo governor José Serra and São Paulo City mayor Gilberto Kassab.

Brazilian press reports indicate that the network of domestic airports is beginning to normalize following the almost six days collapse when Congonhas main runway was closed down causing massive flight delays and cancellations.

Congonhas is the Brazil's busiest international and domestic airport which on rainy days becomes a dangerous trap because of poor drainage.

Brazilian president Lula da Silva promised on national television a new airport and that Congonhas will be limited to regional flights. A new airport, however, would take at least 10 years to be built.




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