An Airbus A320 operated by Brazilian carrier TAM crashed on landing in Sao Paulo, killing nearly 200 people, including all 176 passengers and some people on the ground as the aircraft skidded off the runway onto a busy road, slamming into a building.
Rescue workers recovered bodies on the street at the site where the TAM airliner crashed at Sao Paulo's busiest airport, Congonhas.
Departing Porto Alegre's Salgado Filho International Airport at 17:16, Airbus A320-233 PR-MBK was finishing TAM flight JJ3054 to Congonhas airport, landing there at 18:45.
With the airport having been hit by heavy rains over the previous 24-hours and intermittent showers when the aircraft landed, the A320 attempted to stop within the length of the airport's 1,940m runway, 17R (right) / 35L (left).
Skidding off the left side of the runway, the crew apparently tried to slew around when it neared the opposite threshhold and keep the aircraft within the airport's perimeter, the aircraft then vaulted over a 15m embankment and slammed into TAM Express' regional headquarters after it grazed an automobile gas station, then burst into flames.
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TAM has refrained from disclosing the number of passengers and crewmembers aboard PR-MBK (at 22:00 17 July), but local law enforcement has indicated that there were no survivors among the the aircraft's occupants and it is feared that the death toll may exceed 175 since the four-storey building was still staffed by an unknown number of persons.
Congonhas airport's main runway was closed for approximately 45 days and was recently re-opened after undergoing an $8 million resurfacing and runway grooving programme after a spate of accidents attributed to aquaplaning.
Yet, on the day before the TAM accident (16 July 2007), a Pantanal Linhas Aéreas ATR 42-300 skidded off the runway and lost its nose gear after rotating nearly 180º - but without causing injury to its 21 occupants.
International Federation of Airline Pilots Association (IFALPA) has released a statement which says that this "tragic accident" at Sao Paulo Congonhas Airport (SBSP) "demonstrates once again the need for runway end safety areas to be established at airports with airline operations."
According to Flight’s ACAS database, PR-MBK was built in 1998. It is listed in the database as being owned by Pegasus Aviation and having entered service with TAM in January this year.
Powered by International Aero Engines V2500s, it had a manufacturer’s serial number of 789 and was first operated by TACA. It was later operated by Pacific Airlines of Vietnam.
ACAS data shows that as of 30 April the aircraft had accumulated 20,379 flying hours and 9,313 cycles.
The airline's black box has been recovered and an investigation is underway.
The crash comes 10 months after the Gol/ExcelAire midair collison over the Amazon region which was thought to be the country's worst aircraft accident.
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