Private airports are poised for construction all over Brazil as the solution to an infrastructure pinch on the country's rapidly expanding business and general aviation sector.
President Dilma Rousseff is expected to sign a law soon that will allow private airports to charge fees for landing, parking and other services. The decree would allow for the first time an airport with a fixed-based operation (FBO) outside the government-controlled commercial airports.
The pending law comes as Brazil's business aviation association (ABAG) reports that the national general aviation fleet grew by 6.4% from 2010 to 2011 to more than 13,000 aircraft, including a 15% jump in the number of business jets to more than 700, says Eduardo Marson, president of ABAG.
The figures, released on 14 August, track the sector at the peak of Brazil's economic growth spurt, but the country's economy has cooled over the past 18 months. So far, however, the business jet sector has not shown visible signs of slowing, although most models of business jet sales forecasts assume a one-year lag behind the economic cycle.
But the infrastructure challenge is acknowledged by Brazilian government officials even if the business jet sector stops growing, especially in the São Paulo metropolis. The country must support the potential arrival of thousands of business jets at the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games.
ABAG's top lobbying priority is to preserve access for business aviation at São Paulo's slot-constrained airports, which are already struggling to support Brazil's fast-growing commercial aviation market, says Marson.
But it is agreed that no solution will be enough without the addition of privately operated airports dedicated to supporting business and general aviation.
Two construction projects within São Paulo state are already under discussion, including one proposed by former ABAG president Francisco Lyra. Lyra has commissioned UK-based 3DReid to design a private airport on 7 million m² (75 million ft²) of land reclaimed from a defunct paper mill about 60km (38 miles) from central São Paulo.
The so-called Catalina project envisages a sprawling development, including a 2,800m (9,180ft) runway, condominiums, a golf course, shopping mall, office park and medical centre, but the initial phase calls only for a runway and a parking ramp for up to 500 aircraft, Lyra says. The project can be completed in time for the World Cup if the law is signed soon, he adds.