The Deadliest Plane Crash In Brazilian History

Less than a year after the Gol Boeing mid-air crash which killed 154 people over the Amazon, Brazil is faced with another major plane crash, only this time in even bigger proportions.

Last night at 7pm, a TAM Airlines Airbus A320 skidded off the runway while landing at Congonhas domestic airport in São Paulo, and collided with a warehouse building and a gas station across the highway from the airport. The explosion caused by the collision took firefighters over six hours to contain, and left no survivors. The flight was arriving from Porto Alegre.

TAM Airlines' official statement this morning reported that 186 passengers were on board of the aircraft, and that 14 bodies of people who were on ground have been already recovered from the accident scene. At least 200 people have been confirmed dead.

The tragic accident has already been ranked amongst the 40 worst in air travel history. Here are some updates with reports in English and Portuguese:

Investigators are looking into why Brazilian aviation authorities rushed to reopen the airport's recently resurfaced runway, which had been closed for 45 days for repairs. Just this past Monday, a small plane had skidded off a runway at Congonhas airport, which is designed to best handle short commuter flights for Brazil's large domestic air market.

In February, a Brazilian court had banned large jets at the busy Congonhas airport because of safety concerns, but the ruling was reversed shortly after.

A TAM pilot talked about the accident to Globo, and claimed that it was bound to happen. Grooving of the runway in Congonhas, a measure taken to drain water, had not yet been finished when the runway was re-opened on June 29.

While there is speculation about the condition of the runway under the torrential rains during the time of the accident, reports from the control tower indicate that the aircraft did not break after touching ground. According to technicians, the aircraft actually accelerated instead of breaking right upon touching the runway.

The black box has already been found, and sent to the United States for further examination by the National Transportation Safety Board. In the meantime, the Federal Police has been tapped to investigate the condition of the runway in Congonhas.

I don't feel it is appropriate to post several pictures of the accident here, but I have included links for picture galleries for those interested:

Terra Picture Galleries.

UOL Official Pictures.

UOL Pictures Sent By Readers.

G-1 Official Pictures.

G-1 Pictures Sent By Readers.

President Lula da Silva has declared three days of national mourning for the victims. TAM Airlines will no longer operate the flight from Porto Alegre to Congonhas under number JJ 3054.

My sincere condolences go out to the families and friends of the victims.

Comments

Yes, please keep us posted as news becomes available. So sad...

It does seem that Marta Suplicy's "relaxa e goza" comment in June will come back to haunt this government. Everyone knew this crash was coming, considering the air travel system is collapsing for lack of government action. This is one of those signal moments in Brazil (again) - will the people really stand up and say "enough" or will things once again return to routine?

The courts of appeal that reversed the ban for big aircraft to land in sao paulo airport should be fired.

INFRAERO, the group responsible with the reform of the Congonhas run-way, and airport infra-structure in general was obviously forced by political sides to divide the reform in two time slots.

One for the amplifying of the main run-way, which was in June 2007. One of the main criticims from many pilots was that Congonhas could not handle such a busy schedual from so many huge planes, if the run-way was too short to handle breaking. Under rainy conditions, road-to-tire friction would decreasing, and so would the pilots amount of space to correct mistakes.

and the second one would have been in September (thats what the president of INFRAERO stated in June). This second reform would be the installation of the grooves on the run-way which dramatically increases the road-to-tire friction and avoids the gathering of water during rain. This part of the total reform was perhaps the most crucial, and the only way INFRAERO would allow it do be finished later was for it to be forced not to by some outer force.

The reason politicians delayed the second reform? Congonhas is a gold-mine, imagine an airport in NYC placed right in the middle of Manhatten! Politicians are a greedy type, and a mere risk won't be enough reason for them to skip their "allowance" (or part of it).

All specialists said that it was a matter of time, before a major accident would happen. All the other minor accidents that happened these past few months didn't escalate to this scale of tradegy because of luck. Yet the politicians risked it... it's ok for them, in the end it's the people that pay anyways. (All 201 of them)

This is truly a tragic event.It could have been easily prevented which makes it even more tragic. It was bound to hppen sooner or later. If this isn't a wake up call, I don't know what is.

Thanks for your reporting about this most horrendous and tragic accident. Its happening is most, most unfortunate.

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