Runway in Sao Paulo Too Short? Too Wet?

Almost 200 passengers are suspected dead after the TAM airlines Airbus-320 (en route to Sao Paulo from Porto Alegre in southern Brazil) skidded on the rain-slicked runway in Sao Paulo and slammed into a gas station and TAM building yesterday, USA Today reports.

This is apparently the second major airline disaster in Brazil within a year. In September, 154 died when a Gol Aerolinhas Inteligentes SA Boeing 737 and an executive jet collided over the Amazon rain forest.

There have been questions about the country’s underfunded air traffic control systems, deficient radar system and the airlines’ ability to cope with a surge in travelers. Also, the length of the runway at Sao Paulo’s airport has been repeatedly criticized for being too short (it is 6,365 feet, compared with a 7,003-foot runway at New York’s LaGuardia Airport, which accommodates similar planes) and two planes slipped off it in rainy weather just a day earlier, though no one was injured in either incident.

Plus, yesterday in Colombia, a passenger plane skidded off a wet runway and into the Caribbean Sea.

Seriously, if a wet runway is all it takes, I am worried.