I hope you will enjoy my report regarding my recent trip to the lovely and beautiful country of Brazil.
Friday March 8, 2002
Air Canada 730
Toronto - Newark
Airbus A319-114 C-GBIP (285)
Woke up nice are early for this one, as it would be a 7 AM departure. I was really looking forward to my trip to Brazil but at the same time a little nervous due to report of heavy crime down there, especially tourist related. We arrived at Pearson's Terminal 2 at 5 AM or so and had to wait in quite a long line at the transborder check in desks. Check in was as usual, painless and we went through US Customs where some minimum waged "security guard" decides to pick me out of the line of passengers for a suitcase inspection. He found nothing and I was on my way to security where they make me show them my camera worked and had a good look into my camera bag. After our security procedure we headed for the gate where boarding had already commenced. I took my seat on the A319, the first one ever built and picked up the enRoute magazine. Pushback was on time and soon enough we were airborne off 06L right into some thick cloud that wouldn’t relent all the way to the NYC area. Beverage service was offered along with a muffin, I declined the muffin but I did get a drink. CBC Newsworld was showing as usual for short AC flights, I didn’t bother to watch but rather enjoyed browsing the enRoute magazine, one of the better in-flight magazines out there in my opinion. Descent into Newark was painless and we arrived on schedule at Newark onto runway 04R. The skyline of NYC could not be seen thanks to a layer of cloud starting over the Hudson River. The weather was quite sunny at EWR but there was quite a bit of smog evident. After taking the usual cabin and flight deck shots, I had a chat with the first officer regarding how he got started in aviation and what he used to fly before he came to AC. I thanked him for his time and disembarked into Terminal A. I shot a few airliners from there but soon made my way down to baggage check. We were going to catch the bus to JFK but the next one didn’t come for over an hour so we took a taxi instead, I slept during the cab ride, as I knew I’d have a long day coming up. We arrived at T4 but not after driving past T1 where an AF Concorde was sitting, good to see those at JFK once again!
Photo © Felix Sieder
Friday March 8, 2002
New York JFK – Sao Paulo Guarulhos
McDonnell Douglas MD-11 PP-VPO
Well we arrived at T4 at around 11:30 or so. Needless to say we had a long wait until check in opened but that was fine, I found a spot down in the shopping area where you could watch the T4 ramp at the 04/22 runways, and even though it was double glassed, it didn’t create any reflection and some photography was possible. I grabbed the Fodor’s guide to Brazil at a WHSmith’s. The guidebook really came in handy once down there as it gave plenty of info on where to eat and what to do. Plane spotting/photography was to take up most of my time though. Eventually the check in opened and we switched our seats to row 40, seats A and C (I always try for the left side windows) which was good because the config went from 3-4-2 in 39 to 2-4-2 in 40. After going through security (no searches this time) we headed down to the end of the western pier of T4 for some photography. I managed to shoot for a bit until a security guard lady told me shooting was prohibited, I contested her but didn’t feel the need for trouble at probably the most security intense airport, JFK. After a while she left and another guard came down, I asked if photography was ok and he said sure, no problem, he knew I wasn’t out to help terrorism, but was just a hobbyist. I managed some shots of some decent int’l stuff, even got Universal Guyana’s 763 but in very low light. Boarding commenced at 18:50 and after being question in the air bridge by US Customs officials as to the purpose of the trip and how much money was going into Brazil, we stepped aboard PP-VPO (my 1st MD-11) and took our seats. We pushed on time but had to wait almost an hour for takeoff as it was the evening European rush. Once airborne, I checked out Varig’s in-flight magazine, Icaro Brasil which was quite a good magazine, half Portuguese half English. There was a bit of turbulence shortly after reaching cruising altitude and the g-force effects were really evident on the MD-11, something I found on the return flight as well. It could very well have been possible that this was just heavier turbulence than I have experienced before. Dinner was served, I managed to get the last beef entrée, probably to the dissatisfaction of those behind me but hey, it’s every man for himself when it come to this kind of stuff! Soon after dinner I fell asleep, as we are abeam from Miami and didn’t wake up until we were abeam of Brasilia. About an hour out of Sao Paulo, we were told that there was too much fog at GRU and that we would have to divert to Rio de Janeiro, the final destination for RG8865. We changed course more towards the east and were soon descending into Rio. We touched down on runway 10 at Galeao Int’l and headed to Terminal 2. Rio pax were let off first and then the Sao Paulo pax were instructed to get off the aircraft. Before I got off, I managed some cabin shots as well as flight deck shots, so thanks goes out to the Varig crew on that flight. So it was right off the aircraft and into a big line that was for another security screening (odd considering it was after the flight). After the security check, we made our way up to the Int’l departures area again as all Sao Paulo pax were told to do. We waited until 09.30 when they said that the flight to Sao Paulo would be ready for boarding any moment on the same aircraft the JFK flight had come in on. We were combined with the Madrid flight and although no seat assignments were given, I was one of the first onboard and immediately made my way back to 40A. We pushed back at 10:20 and took off on runway 10. The flight was short to GRU and I was ready to get started with my Brazilian adventure. We descended and I immediately took notice of just how large a city the financial/business capital of Brazil is. 20,000,000 people occupy the city and surrounding metro areas, that’s about 5 times as many people there are in Toronto, in fact that’s nearly the population of Canada!!! Landing was a little rough on runway 09R but that didn’t matter. We taxied over to Terminal 2 and disembarked. Customs was a painless procedure and our baggage was already on the carousel by the time got to the re-claim. We were greeted by cheering Brazilians at Int’l arrivals and that immediately put me in a good mood. We caught a taxi from the curbside to our hotel next to Congonhas Airport, named the Goldenflat. This hotel is really recommended for aviation photographers/spotters as all shooting/spotting can be done from your room if you get one on the east side of the hotel. We had room 716 which offered a nice view and was a great location for afternoon photography. Rooms on higher floors no doubt would have offered a better chance for approach shots but 716 was perfect for shooting taxiing aircraft. The bar downstairs was a fun place, the waiters seemed to be very cheerful, especially once I was on my 3rd or 4th ciapirinha (an awesome drink of sugar cane alcohol cachaca/pinga mixed with lime and sugar, it’s strong but very nice). On our first night, we were taken out for pizza by a very friendly aviation enthusiast from Sao Paulo, and I must say the Paulistano’s know how to make a great pizza. We spent a few days in Sao Paulo and mostly at the airports, but we did manage to visit the Ibirapuera and Morumbi areas. For dinner, I really recommend Fogo de Chao for some great barbequed meats, you can visit them at
Photo © Jose Luiz Junior
Wednesday March 13, 2002
Sao Paulo Congonhas – Rio de Janeiro Santos Dumont
Airbus A319-132 PT-MZF
We caught at taxi from the Goldenflat to Congonhas, the ride only took 5 minutes although the walk would have taken 3 or 4. As I was wrapping up my shooting from the room and getting ready to head downstairs to catch the cab, we noticed Brazilian Policia Militar on the roof of the adjacent Air Force building. I think they spotted me as there was a few of them in the lobby of the Goldenflat, headed upstairs just as I was leaving. Turns out an Air Force 737-200 came in, probably carrying someone important who might be the target of assassins! We checked in with TAM and were offered an earlier Ponte Aerea flight but we declined, there was no rush. We had time to walk around the terminal and then went through security into departure room A. Boarding was called at 16:55 as it started to rain. We were put onto a bus and were driven out to our awaiting A319, PT-MZF. The bus driver pulled the bus door right up to the airstairs so we didn’t get wet, muito obrigado senhor! I was expecting leather seats but that wasn’t the case, but that didn’t make a difference to me. We pushed at 17:10 and were off 17R at 17:15. I was a little sad leaving behind Sao Paulo, I had such a wonderful time there and really was pleased with the time spent there, I wasn’t expecting to be having this much fun so far on the trip but I was happily surprised. We got an actual food service, certainly not the norm in North America for a 45 minute flight. We were served beef empanadas which were nice and I washed it down with the Brazilian soft drink, Guarana, made from the Amazonian fruit with the same name. Before I knew it we had started descent into Rio and we made a sweeping right turn right over GIG to align with runway 20L. We touched down smoothly but we slowly very quickly due to the super short runway at this downtown airport. We used a ton of reverse thrust to stop us before we would have slid into Guanabara Bay. I immediately noticed the Pao de Acucar (Sugarloaf) and Corcovado (Hunchback) once we were off the runway. We pulled up to stand, I took some cabin shots and a few flightdeck shots, big thanks to the crew for that and then we disembarked onto the apron. We had to walk to baggage claim, again the bags were on the carousel right when we got their although this time we didn’t have to go through any customs or passport check process, so good work TAM SDU groundcrew! The service on TAM was excellent and the best I have experienced on a flight of less than one hour duration. I loved the openness of the SDU terminal, reminded me a bit of London’s train stations. We took a taxi to our hotel at Copacabana Beach, the Rio Othon Palace. The Palace had a domestic Varig check in right downstairs. I spent all mornings at Galeao and made one afternoon trip to Santos Dumont, I think Justplanes or someone had a videographer up in the deck filming for them, I guess we will find out in the future. We spent Saturday afternoon at the top of Corcovado and I must say the view is stunning, 2000ft high in one of the beautiful cities in the world. World can’t explain, you should go see for yourself if you have the opportunity. On Sunday it was time to leave Brazil, but I was totally looking forward to the arrival of a TAAG Angola 747-300 which comes in once a week from Luanda.
Photo © Leonardo Oliveira
Sunday March 17, 2002
Rio de Janiero Galeao – New York JFK via Sao Paulo Guarulhos
McDonnell Douglas MD-11 PP-VQH
We got to the airport at 11:30 with enough time to spare before the arrival of the TAAG 747. It came in at 13:00 and I got plenty of shots of it, as it’s quite a rarity to see, I believe it only serves LAD, GIG, CDG, OPO and LIS. I also saw but couldn’t shoot the brand new Varig 737-300 in 75 Anniversary paint, I believe she just came out of the paintshop at GIG as she took off and flew right to SDU. I would guess this aircraft will be dedicated to the Ponte Aerea but I can’t confirm. We checked in at 17:00 and had one suitcase searched, I didn’t mind, I understand the increased security these days, especially on flights to the USA, it might be a hassle but one must appreciate it when you make it safely to your destination. We had to pay a tax of R84.00 per person to leave Brazil, and once we did we went back to get our boarding cards, I got 33A, my father had 33B. We went through security and checked out the duty free shop where they happened to have a computer with internet access. I surfed the net for a bit and then went to gate 40 where our flight would be boarding at 19.30. Well boarding time passed and soon we were all called back from the gate area to have all of our carry ons individually searched. Again I do appreciate the new security measures, if you have nothing to hide, you will breeze through, if you are carrying a banned item, then you will not appreciate the new security. We we boarded at 20.00 and pushed on time. We taxied out to runway 10 and took off towards GRU. The flight was quick once again and we had an hour and a bit ground stop at Guarulhos to take on more passengers, cargo, baggage and most importantly, fuel. We were pushed at 22:30 or so and quickly made our way to runway 09L for takeoff. We had a nice, long takeoff roll and were airborne at 22:40. Service was good as was the last flight with Varig. I didn’t bother to eat the food but I did have a guarana before I went to sleep. I woke up way off the coast of South Carolina and after breakfast which I passed on again we started our descent into the New York City area. The weather was aweful and we made an almost straight in approach to 04R. Landing was smooth and we were quickly at the gate ready to disembark. Some more cabin photos again as VQH had a bit of a more modern interior than VPO, no flightdeck shots though. We had to wait in line for customs as the agent was having some problems serving the Japanese-Brazilian boys ahead of us, but we breezed right through and yet again, our baggage was on the carousel when we got there. We went outside and caught the NY Airport Service bus to LGA, I do think that for $22 for two people, a cab at $30 would be better if you don’t have much time for a connection as the bus serves all terminals. We were caught in morning rush hour traffic on the Van Wyck and Grand Central but made it to La Guardia at 09:20.
Photo © Florian Kondziela
Monday, March 18, 2002
Air Canada 707
New York La Guardia - Toronto
Airbus A319-114 C-GAQZ
We had confirmed seats on the 19:00 departure but obviously didn’t want to wait that long to get home, especially since photography wouldn’t be too easy with the new security and lack of locations in the AC terminal coupled with the horrible weather. We were lucky and got seats 21A and B on AC 707, a 10:15 departure. As we went through security, I got singled out since I set off the metal detector with my belt buckle or watch and got a pat down and carry on search. I guess that security is tightest in New York City, and with very good reason. A big f-you goes out to the terrorists that made it like this, but that goes without saying really. Our A319 was already at the gate when we got to the lounge and boarding was called at 09:55. I managed not to get searched at the gate as was happening to some people and boarded C-GAQZ, which had the sticker on the side of the US and Canadian flags together with the AC logo, nice gesture Air Canada! Pushback was ontime but we had quite a long wait for takeoff, and we were eventually cleared for takeoff at 10:50 and went right into the cloud after a smooth takeoff from runway 13. The flight was pleasant as usual, no food service like on TAM, but not a bad bunch of flight attendants, which is most important with me. CBC Newsworld was shown again, our first taste of Canadian news in 10 days. Muffins and beverages were served again, I declined the muffin but grabbed a cup of Coke. We made our descent into Toronto and popped out of the clouds on final to 24R, over the Downsview area already. We made a smooth landing at YYZ and were at the gate on time at 11:45. Customs was quick and easy, with a “welcome home guys” from the agent. Baggage claim again was very fast, the bags were on the carousel again. We were soon landside and caught our ride back home to Thornhill.
Photo © AirNikon
A very wonderful trip and one of the greatest experiences of my life was wrapped up. I am looking forward to visiting Sao Paulo and Rio in the future again, and I recommend anyone who has the opportunity, to go, it can be dangerous, but only if you are not carefully or are unlucky. Brazilians seem very friendly and happy people, and even though communication with them is hard (most do not speak English at all, and most people who do speak English only have the basics) but you can manage, especially if you know some Spanish. Well a big thanks goes out to the AC, RG, JJ crews and to local aviation fans Luiz Nolf and Renato Salzinger for taking us out for the best pizza I’ve ever tasted and providing me with good spotting info for Sao Paulo, respectively. I hope you all have enjoyed this report, comments are welcome and appreciated.