Brazil is considering privatising its airports and getting rid of the government agency Infraero that controls them.

Recently appointed defence minister Nelson Jobim has made it clear that airports will be the first target in a general review of the country's aviation infrastructure following the two serious accidents in the past year that killed 353 people.

The government has pledged that Brazilian government agencies that regulate and control civil aviation are to undergo radical restructuring.

An inevitable question will be whether the military will continue to provide air traffic control and accident investigation as it traditionally has in Brazil and many other Latin American countries.

Following the loss on 17 July of a TAM Airbus A320 that overran on landing at São Paulo's Congonhas downtown airport, among the first steps taken was to slash aircraft movements from 46 to 33 an hour at this key domestic hub.

tam crasgh pic

That entailed shifting 151 scheduled flights a week to nearby Guarulhos international airport and suspending cargo and charter flights to Congonhas. Further reductions are expected over the next 60 days as the 1,500km (800nm) point-to-point cap for scheduled services into that airport comes into effect.

In addition, Congonhas's considerable corporate aviation activity is severely restricted, with flights halved to three movements an hour from six. An adequate short- to mid-term solution has yet to be found, although Jundiaí's regional airport is still being considered as a new home - despite it being 60km from São Paulo.

"The measures put into effect are short term and aimed mainly at decongesting Congonhas," said Jobim as he announced a $1.53 billion package to improve runway and installations at Congonhas, Guarulhos and Jundiaí airports.

Jobim said that Guarulhos would undergo extensive runway repaving and the terminals will be expanded to cope with increased passenger traffic, although a decision on the construction of a third runway has not yet been made.

Neither has it been decided what the changes at Congonhas will be, although one of the favoured options is to reduce its declared 1,940m (6,360ft) landing run to 1,600m, adding 150m safety areas at both ends of the runway.

Nominating Sérgio Gaudenzi, head of Brazil's Space Agency, to take over Infraero - the country's airport administration authority - Jobim indicates that the state-owned company will go public.

He is cautious in providing a definite timetable "It would be irresponsible to set a deadline inasmuch as the airports are not a part of Infraero's assetsjust the airport fees," he says.

Yet government sources are suggesting that by 2009 the company will be ready, with the outright sale of a 20-25% stake as the likeliest option.