Brazil’s first private business aviation airport received government approval when civil aviation minister Moreira Franco signed the authorization July 25 at ceremonies in São Paulo.
The approval came a little more than six months after Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff signed a decree permitting the private construction and operation of airports, an edict that also allows charges for landing and takeoff operations. Previously, private airports could charge rent only for maintenance and hangar space.
The airport, initially identified as Aeródromo Privado Rodoanel (Beltway Private Airport), is being developed by Harpia Logística, a company formed for that purpose by primary partners Fernando Augusto Botelho and André Skaf, along with minority partners Silvio Gonçalves Pereira and Oswaldo Sansone Rodrigues Filho.
Situated on 1,000 acres in one of the last large open areas within the city, the airport’s two runways, each 1,830 meters (6,004 feet) long, will be laid out almost parallel to nearby Congonhas Airport to facilitate a workable traffic approach and departure plan. The runways will be longer than those at Congonhas, as well as the single runway at Santos Dumont Airport in Rio de Janeiro.
According to Fernando Botelho, the location, in the Parelheiros neighborhood and only 24 kilometers (15 miles) from Congonhas Airport, stands out because of its close proximity to the São Paulo business district and accessibility to the beltway. An exclusive highway exit for the airport is under study. Botelho is the son of Fernando de Arruda Botelho, former vice president of Camargo Correa, entrepreneur, pilot and passionate supporter of aviation. (The elder Botelho died April 2012 in the crash of a T-28 near Ityrapina, Brazil.)
Botelho also pointed out that the airport will be in the Parelheiros neighborhood, “the region with the lowest IDH (index of human development) in the city of São Paulo. It will develop this area and will generate between 5,000 and 9,000 jobs, directly and indirectly.”
Approval from the Brazilian Air Force SRVP (Serviço Regional do Proteção ao Vôo–regional flight protection service, equivalent to U.S. air traffic control) was received in 2011. Applications for state environmental licenses were submitted a year ago, and the group is now working on the necessary city permits.
The airport infrastructure will include a business aviation terminal, helipads and a series of hangar clusters connected by taxiways, some with two lanes to facilitate ground traffic at peak hours. The airport is expected to operate 24/7; initially with non-precision IFR, but runways and taxiways are being constructed with widths and clearances to permit the eventual addition of ILS approach.
The runway and initial hangars are expected to be ready for use by the end of 2014; possibly as early as September of that year.
While the FIFA World Cup and the demands it will make on private and business aviation will be history by that time, the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro will be less than two years away and may present even greater challenges.
15,000-plus Airplanes in Brazil
It is not only special events that are driving the need for more airports in Brazil, as Minister Franco noted at the signing ceremony. “There are 16,000 airplanes in Brazil, but only 500 of them are commercial aircraft.” And he continued, “There’s a need to recover lost time and make up for decades of low investment.”
Privatization of Confins Airport in Belo Horizonte and of Rio de Janeiro’s Galeão International Airport are expected in September. Franco anticipates these privatizations will enjoy the same success as have Cumbica and Viracopos airports, both of which serve São Paulo. They have been under full private management since earlier this year. Along with the privatization of airports, the government is determined to “bring heavyweight airport operators from overseas,” said Franco.
Airports represent the fastest growing mode of transportation today, said governor Geraldo Alckmin of the state of São Paulo. He added that, while it once was vital for cities to be located on the sea, then on rivers, then railroads and highways, “today, it’s airports.”
Several of the authorities present at the signing praised the “young and dynamic” primary partners in the Rodoanel airport project. André Skaf, son of FEISP (Federção das Indústrias do Estado de São Paulo) president Paulo Skaf, and Fernando Botelho, are both age 32.
Silvio Pereira, minority partner in the airport development, explained the somewhat curious hangar clusters. “The airport was designed for a minimum of earthmoving, and to protect all the features identified in the environmental impact study as important,” he explained. “This respect for the existing contours means some long taxiways will be needed to reach the project’s plan for 33 to 37 hangars, which may be built-to-suit.”
By the partners’ calculations, the hangar and ramp areas, with a total of 5.2 million square feet, will be able to accommodate up to 600 aircraft.
The total investment is estimated at R$1 billion ($444 million). The newspaper O Estado de São Paulo, reports that Harpia Logística is seeking foreign equity investors in the project.
Minimal Conflict with Congonhas
ANAC president-director Marcelo Guaranys evaded questions regarding the impact of the new Rodoanel field on Congonhas Airport. He did point out that Congonhas can handle 40 to 50 operations per hour, and currently there are 34 pre-scheduled slots per hour: 30 for commercial and four for general aviation. But he denied there are plans to move business aviation away from Congonhas. On the other hand, he admitted studies are being undertaken to possibly grant some business aviation slots there to commercial operators.
“Congonhas Airport is at capacity and reallocating some business aviation slots to commercial aviation will allow the number of passengers served to be increased without increasing the total number of flights,” Guaranys explained.
The Harpia Logística partners are now consulting with the responsible agencies to allow the new airport to receive international flights. The situation at present is that arriving international business jets often cannot be parked at São Paulo’s Guarulhos International Airport due to limited (or prohibitively expensive) ramp space. So they land, passengers and crew go through immigration and customs, and then the aircraft must be ferried to another airport, after having used one landing and one takeoff slot at the already congested international airport.
André Skaf said it has been two years since the kickoff of the Rodoanel project, and since then the partners have been working on a solution for general aviation for São Paulo. We were told that it was a dream; that it had been discussed many times before, but nothing concrete ever happened.”
IBAC (International Business Aviation Council) vice chairman Rui Thomaz de Aquino assured listeners at the signing, “This will be an international airport, and it’s where business jets will come. That’s what it was conceived for, and that’s what is was born for, here today.”
The Rodoanel airport, concluded Marco Tjulio Pellegrini, v-p of Embraer Executive Jets, will not be good merely for business aviation, “It will be good for the country.”