The international area of Congonhas airport, located in the south of São Paulo, is expected to operate by the end of this year. Flights to other countries, however, will be restricted to business aviation.
The new hangar is part of a series of reforms carried out by Infraero on the eve of the airport concession, planned by the federal government to be completed in the first half of 2022.
The international area is an old demand of passengers, according to João Márcio Jordão, superintendent of Congonhas airport. To inaugurate it, it is still necessary to obtain approval from Anvisa (National Health Surveillance Agency), the Federal Police and the Ministry of Agriculture.
Landings and take-offs to other countries will not change the opening hours of the airport, which continues to operate from 6:00 am to 11:00 pm daily.
In addition to internationalization, the series of improvements in Congonhas includes a new safety system to prevent planes from advancing beyond the limits of the runway and causing serious accidents, such as that of TAM flight 3054, in July 2007, which left 199 dead.
In the tragedy, the pilot was unable to stop on the runway after landing, he ran into the air company building on Washington Luís Avenue.
The new system is called Emas (Engineered Material Arresting System, in Portuguese translation) and consists of porous concrete blocks installed on metallic structures along the two headlands of the runway.
Due to the consistency of the material, the aircraft’s landing gear “sinks” when it comes in contact with the blocks, which absorb the acceleration until the aircraft stops. The works cost R$122.5 million and were paid for through a tender contracted by Infraero.
Started in February, the installation is expected to be delivered in March 2022. The security system is imported from Switzerland and used at airports with the same problem of shortage of escape areas in Boston and Chicago, in the United States, as well as in Taipei , in Taiwan, and at Barajas airport, in Madrid, Spain.
Asked about the delay of more than a decade since the accident with TAM’s Airbus for a definitive solution for the safety of the Congonhas runway, the airport superintendent said that it was necessary to wait for the development of the right technology.
“Aircraft have changed a lot technologically over time,” he said.
The superintendent claims that the airport has always been safe and operates in accordance with the requirements stipulated by ANAC (National Civil Aviation Agency). “We are investing more and more in security, regardless of the concession,” he said.
Last year, the Congonhas runway received an asphalt overhaul with the installation of the so-called grooving in the headlands, a water drainage system that improves the grip of aircraft tires on the pavement.
Shortly after the accident with TAM’s Airbus, the then director of Anac, Denise Abreu, lost her position after being accused by the Federal Public Ministry in São Paulo of having put the Congonhas operation at risk for having cleared the newly renovated runway without the grooving.
Other recent improvements at the airport included the installation of LED lighting in the runway markings, renovation of the façade and part of the frames, expansion of the departure lounge and installation of turnstiles with electronic reading of boarding passes.
The security system went from 200 to 470 cameras, and the aircraft apron was also reformulated.
Congonhas is among the last 16 airports managed by Infraero that will be granted to the private sector. Santos Dumont, in Rio de Janeiro, is also in this package to be negotiated.
The privatization notice for the 16 airports was approved by Anac at the end of September and is now being analyzed in public hearings.
Negotiations will be carried out in blocks. Congonhas is in the group with Campo de Marte, located in the north of São Paulo, and three other airports in Mato Grosso do Sul and another four in Pará.
In 2017, the then Minister of Transport, Ports and Civil Aviation, Maurício Quintella, presented a study against the privatization of Congonhas under the risk of making Infraero’s entire operation unfeasible with the loss of revenue from the airport in São Paulo.