Large Jets Banned from Sao Paulo's Largest Airports

A federal judge has banned three types of large passenger jets from using Brazil's busiest airport due to safety concerns, a move that could snarl traffic and cause delays across Latin America's largest country.

Beginning Thursday, Fokker 100s, Boeing 737-800s and Boeing 737-700s will no longer be able to use Sao Paulo's Congonhas airport, according to an injunction signed by Judge Ronald de Carvalho Filho, court officials said Tuesday.

Federal aviation and airport authorities said they would appeal the decision.

The judge said the airport's main runway needs to be 388 meters (1,275 feet) longer to provide an adequate safety margin for the three aircraft - the largest that use Congonhas.

Federal prosecutors had argued the runway is too short and that it has a faulty drainage system that poses a safety risk. In recent months, excess water on the runway has caused some planes to skid off the runway.

But a spokeswoman from Brazil's National Agency of Civil Aviation, who declined to be identified citing agency policy said, "The safety conditions of the runway and the airport as a whole are adequate."

She said the judge's ruling could affect "at least 10,000 passengers a day." She gave no further details on the possible impact the judge's decisions may have on Congonhas.

On Tuesday morning, heavy rains forced the Congonhas airport to shut down for almost an hour, delaying about 20 flights for as long as three hours.

"If the injunction stands, it will cause total chaos," said a spokesman for Tam Linhas Aereas SA, the country's No. 1 carrier, who declined to be identified in accordance with company policy. TAM flies Fokker 100s out of Congonhas.

He said the injunction would force airlines to divert a large number of flights from Congonhas to Sao Paulo's Cumbica International Airport, some 50 kilometers (30 miles) away, or Viracopos airport, about 90 kilometers (55 miles) away.

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