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Air accidents in Brazil increase 42 percent

Associated Press

SAO PAULO (AP) – The number of air accidents in Latin America’s biggest country jumped more than 40 percent in 2011, the Brazilian air force said Thursday.

The air force’s Center for Investigation and Prevention of Flight Accidents said there were 156 accidents with planes and helicopters last year, compared to 110 in 2010. It said 90 people died in last year’s accidents.

Considering the total number of flights in Brazil, last year there was one air accident for every 18,525 flights. The year before, there was one accident for every 24,090 flights.

The center gave no explanation for the increase in accidents. The previous highest number was registered in 2009 when 114 accidents occurred.

Brazil’s worst plane accident in 2011 took place on July 13 when a regional airliner crashed in the northeastern city of Recife, killing all 16 people on board. The Noar Airlines plane was a L-410 built by LET Aircraft Industries in the Czech Republic. It had a capacity for 19 passengers.

The rise in accidents coincides with a sharp increase in the number of passengers traveling by plane in Brazil.

Earlier this year, Brazil’s civil aviation agency said demand for air travel rose 194 percent in 10 years. Demand in 2011 alone increased 16 percent over the previous year.

In 2002, airlines flew 34.3 million passengers on flights originating in Brazil. That rose to 107.8 million last year, the agency reported.

The near-tripling of the demand for flights in the past decade is straining a system that is under pressure to prepare for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics.

Brazil is trying to improve its overcrowded and poorly maintained airports before hosting the two events.

Travelers are suffering from packed airports, jumps in ticket prices and routine delays often caused by woeful airport infrastructure, from poor runways to problems with radar systems that air control operators rely upon.

Improving airports was a key promise the government made in its winning bid to host the 2014 World Cup, football’s premiere event. Hundreds of thousands of fans will fly between the 12 host cities for matches.

Top officials from FIFA, soccer’s governing body, have criticized Brazil for the lack of upgrades to the ailing air system.

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