Ahead of the 2016 LABACE show's opening general session, Dario Lopes, Brazil’s secretary of civil aviation, explained to AIN the changes announced last week in the government’s regional airports program. Apparently, the ministry selected 176 airports as its priority list, then ranked them by factors such as revenue and profit/loss (for those that are not operating, it simulated potential revenues). “The smaller the loss, the better,” Lopes said.
Another factor was “the area served by the airport, and the priority given to it by both airlines, and by general aviation,” said Lopes. The 53 airports designated as priorities, he said, cover 80 percent of the priorities indicated by airlines and ABAG. The Amazon region was given special weight, and each state also got at least one project, with a few exceptions. Lopes also said the completion of the Sorocaba control tower was a special priority.
Asked about whether new technology, such as satellite GPS navigation and remote towers, could make regional airports more economical, he immediately noted that the SAC is waiting on approval from the Air Force’s airspace control group DECEA to implement remote weather stations. “This lets us get METARs without having to station people there,” he said. A remote tower is currently under test at Matão airport.
After the formal opening, Lopes responded to a question from a reporter from the Amazon region about internationalizing airports, especially that of Porto Velho, an initiative requested by IATA to have an approved alternate airport in the region, and this was also in response to requests from the presidents of Bolivia and Peru. Lopes noted that there’s more to it than simply declaring airports to be international; there has to be a permanent presence of customs, immigration and other personnel, for example. The awareness not only of construction costs but also of operational costs may represent a step upward for Brazil, which is littered with disused stadiums from the 2014 World Cup, and recovering from a corruption scandal emanating from questionable construction contracts.