Brazil Replaces Airport Authority Chief

SAO PAULO, Brazil_The head of Brazil's airport authority is being replaced in response to the nation's worst aviation disaster, a Defense Ministry spokeswoman said on Saturday.

Sergio Mauricio Brito Gaudenzi, the president of Brazil's Space Agency, will replace Jose Carlos Pereira as head of the airport authority, Infraero, said the spokeswoman for the Defense Ministry, which oversees Brazil's civil aviation system. The spokeswoman declined to be identified in accordance with department policy.

She said the changeover would be officially announced Monday.

On July 17, TAM Linhas Aereas SA airlines Flight 3054 sped down the runway at Sao Paulo's Congonhas airport, jumped a major highway and slammed into an air cargo building, killing all 187 people aboard and 12 people on the ground.

The airport authority was criticized for reopening the Sao Paulo's Congonhas airport's relatively short runway before it was grooved - a process that helps water run off and provides better traction in rain.

Critics also say that Pereira and Infraero paid more attention to the renovation of passenger terminals and the construction of parking areas than to safety measures like grooving, the installation of long safety strips at the end of the runways and better instrument landing systems.

The O Estado de S. Paulo and Folha de S.Paulo newspapers on Saturday quoted an internal Airbus statement that said the data recorders failed to show any functional flaws that would have prevented the plane from operating normally.

The statement, according to the two dailies, supports earlier reports indicating that the throttle of the right engine was set to accelerate instead of neutral when the plane landed.

Airbus spokeswoman Barbara Kracht said she could not comment on the reports.

The air force, according to the O Estado de S. Paulo, said that the black box data being analyzed is not conclusive and that it is too early to determine if the incorrect position of the throttle was due to a mistake made by the pilots or to a flaw in the aircraft's computers.