This Brazilian airport undergoes extensive investment as it prepares to become the biggest and best equipped in Latin America. Reuben Ford describes a driven and dynamic approach.
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Aeroportos Brasil Viracopos S.A. recently assumed control of Viracopos airport in São Paulo which already serves more national destinations than any other in the country.
The Special Purpose Company, which signed the concession contract in June 2012, is focused on expanding, maintaining and running the airport.
Spending $4.75 billion over the next 30 years, Aeroportos Brasil Viracopos S.A. plans to make Viracopos one of the world’s largest passenger airports with capacity for 80 million passengers a year.
Referring to Hartfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (currently the world’s busiest in terms of volume of passengers and number of flights), Company President Luiz Alberto Küster says, “We will be Atlanta at the end of our concession.”
A New Era
Viracopos International Airport is in Campinas, São Paulo state and is currently an important center of Brazilian air traffic – both for passengers and cargo.
The state capital’s largest airport, Guarulhos, is operating at full capacity and cannot be expanded further, putting the onus on Viracopos to meet the growing requirements of air travel in one of the world’s biggest countries and the host of the forthcoming Soccer World Cup and Olympic Games.
It is more than just a challenge; preparing Viracopos for Brazil’s busy future is the target of Aerportos Brasil Viracopos S.A. – a public service concessionaire established in 2012.
On June 14th 2012 the Special Purpose Company, set up specifically for the development of the airport, confirmed its 30-year concession contract with the Brazilia government and ANAC (Brazilian Civil Aviation Authority) and Viracopos airport embarked on a period of transformation.
“Our commitment is to transform Viracopos into South America’s largest and most modern airport,” Küster affirms.
The airport is located eight miles from the city of Campinas and sixty miles from São Paulo, Brazil’s largest city and industrial capital. São Paulo is currently served by two other airports, Guarulhos (32 million passengers per year) and Congonhas (14 million passengers per year). “Depending on which part of São Paulo you are in, it is faster to reach Viracopos than Guarulhos,” Küster says. In 2012, almost nine million passengers passed through the airport – a 17 percent rise on 2011.
The extensive $4.75 billion investment program already initiated by Aerportos Brasil Viracopos S.A. projects record growth rates, which will surpass São Paulo’s two other airports.
The new airport is planned according to an ‘airport city’ concept – as such, its expansion includes construction of hotels, a shopping mall and convention center.
The project was prepared in partnership with Dutch organization NACO, responsible for Schipol Airport in Amsterdam, recognized as one of the most modern in the world.
“The developments are projected in investment cycles as part of a master plan,” Küster explains.
The first three-month stage of this plan was initiated in August 2012, when Aerportos Brasil Viracopos S.A. began closely following Infraero (Brazilian Government Corporation for airport infrastructure) and its running of Viracopos.
For the next three months, until February 2013, Aerportos Brasil Viracopos S.A. assumed control of the airport, under the observation of Infraero.
Since February 2013 Viracopos International Airport has been operated definitively by Aerportos Brasil Viracopos S.A.
The first cycle of the investment plan is underway: “A $1-billion dollar project to construct a new terminal by May 2014 will increase passenger capacity to 14 million,” Küster confirms.
The terminal includes 4,000 car parking spaces, 28 passenger boarding bridges, seven remote airplane parking bays and three piers, including one for international destinations.
Covering 140,000 square meters, the terminal benefits from Viracopos’ 2,500-hectare site, this will also provide space for four runways by the end of the concession.
“Construction is on schedule,” Küster affirms. “To meet all the deadlines of the first development cycle, fast-track engineering procedures ensure that engineering and construction advance at the same pace.”
At present the company is excavating 2.5 million cubic meters of earth, which when complete in October of this year will allow the first stages of foundation. A total of 6,000 laborers are involved in the project.
In addition to NACO, Aerportos Brasil Viracopos S.A. consulted Flughafen München GmbH, the operator of Munich Airport in Germany, which is the sixth largest in Europe.
The modernized airport considers all present and future industry concerns. The roof is covered with photovoltaic solar energy panels and the building incorporates a system for recycling rainwater.
As well as sustainable, the new compact design benefits passengers, is practical to build, lends itself easily to future expansion and has a strong architectural identity.
Among the construction features of the first-cycle is the parking lot building, which integrates harmoniously with the passenger terminal by a covered bridge-walkway. The building will also contain restaurants, car-hire outlets and offices for public federal organs. “The structure will be prepared for future vertical expansion to include a hotel and commercial offices,” Küster adds.
Furthermore, the construction has been designed to interact with existing airport buildings and operations, so as not to interrupt business until 2014.
More than maintain the existing structure; Aerportos Brasil Viracopos S.A. is investing $35 million in refurbishing the existing terminal building. “Our aim is to guarantee more comfort and security for passengers, until the inauguration of the new terminal,” Küster continues.
Washroom facilities at the terminal will be increased by 94 percent and departure gates by 142 percent (expanding from 2,400 square meters to almost 6,000 square meters). Provisional luggage belts and check-in desks are also being installed.
The improvements, which began in August 2012, will be completed in the first quarter of 2013. A further $15.5 million is currently being invested in the cargo terminal.
Success in Flight
The concessionaire’s efforts and investments are already paying off. In 2011, 7.6 million passengers passed through Viracopos, last year the number rose to 8.8 million. According to plans, by May 2014 the capacity will be 14 million passengers.
The master plan strategy has five cycles – each increasing the potential volume of passengers. Projected figures estimate 22 million passengers by 2018 and target 80 million by the end of the concession in 2038.
In relation to the number of takeoffs and landings, Viracopos has grown by 15.5 percent. On July 23rd, 2013, the airport reported a record number of 404 planes arriving at and leaving the terminal.
The figures speak for themselves and everything points to a soaring success. Viracopos currently serves 50 national destinations from one terminal. Airlines currently operating from Viracopos are requesting increasing numbers of routes and new airlines want to begin flying from the airport.
Following completion of the first cycle, cycle two promises a new runway to accommodate the new airport capacity.
With ambitious plans underway and on schedule, Aerportos Brasil Viracopos S.A. is proving the sky is the limit.