Catarina Executive Airport in São Paulo will open for operation the second half of this year, concluding a saga that demanded massive capital investment during a recession that battered both the country and developer JHSF, which is well known for its luxury shopping malls and residential and commercial developments. While Catarina has suffered delays—the original schedule anticipated receiving visitors for the 2014 World Cup—and the project has been trimmed back, the principal runway will be inaugurated at its initially projected 2,470 meters (8,104 feet), permitting jets with intercontinental range to take off fully fueled, to reach London, New York, or Paris.
Aerial photos of Catarina show the paved runway; the first hangar in the planned complex; and the terminal/FBO designed by famed architect Sid Bergamin, who is also responsible for many of the developer's luxury projects. The location, part of a grander JHSF project astride the major Castelo Branco highway, can be as little as 35 minutes by car from the most dynamic part of São Paulo's business district. Across the highway, the first part of the project to be completed, Catarina Fashion Outlet mall, has remained at nearly 100 percent occupancy since opening, which in a depressed economy is a sign that the location is not too distant.
With the governor's announced goal of restricting the downtown Campo de Marte airport to helicopters only and with hangar sites at the Sorocaba and Jundiaí airports nearing saturation, Catarina opens at a moment when it may need to not so much attract hangarage and RMO customers but merely be prepared to welcome those forced out from other locations. Catarina is closer than Sorocaba, Jundiaí, and Campo dos Amarais, but of course farther than Congonhas, which is wsaturated even for commercial flights.
Another business airport project, variously baptized Rodoanel, Harpia, Parelheiros or Aeroparque, was announced at about the same time as Catarina but vanished without a spadeful of dirt being turned. The Aerovale project in Caçapava is also nearing completion, but with a shorter runway, and it would require many business aviation users to traverse the whole city of São Paulo before they could take the congested Rio-bound highways to points beyond São José dos Campos.
Forging Ahead through Adversity
Catarina developer JHSF is publicly traded and has escaped nearly all the fallout from corruption investigations that has swirled about its privately held competitors: construction firms and corruption have long been near-synonymous in Brazil. The recession has been long and deep enough to affect even JHSF's very high-end enterprises, such as the Fasano hotels and restaurants and a string of luxury shopping malls.
The developer has retrenched, selling off participation in its malls, and cutting expenses: long-time LABACE attendees may recall an elaborate model of the Catarina project in a chalet on a vast static area. This year's booth is far more modest, and the airport is more modest than the model was.
Plans continue for development at Catarina, including office towers and residential development.