By Carlos A. DeJuana
SAO PAULO, Brazil (Reuters) - Two Fokker-100
jets belonging to Brazil's TAM airline made separate emergency landings
on Friday in the same state, one at a farm and another in a city
airport, although no one was seriously hurt.
The first mid-sized Fokker-100 jet landed
in a grassy field a short distance from a farmhouse near the town
of Aracatuba, 325 miles northwest of the city of Sao Paulo.
Television images showed the white-and-red
plane had been banged up and its tail-end had been partly torn.
Small pieces of the plane littered a cow pasture.
TAM said in a statement none of the 24
passengers on board were seriously hurt, although four were treated
for light scrapes and sprains.
Passenger Jose Jorge Rezende told Globo
television the landing had been rough.
"The plane was ruined. The wheels
were torn off, it was ripped up on the inside, pieces of the plane
flew off. And a cow was killed ... or at least it's almost dead,"
TAM later confirmed another Fokker-100
was forced to land at the international airport of Viracopos in
the city of Campinas, which lies about 60 miles northwest of Sao
Paulo, without any landing gear. None of the 42 passengers were
hurt, TAM said.
Globo reported the plane made the emergency
landing after it had hydraulic problems with its landing gear. It
skidded 440 yards on a runway on which emergency crews had sprayed
TAM, Brazil's second-biggest airline,
said it was sending teams to investigate the cause of both accidents
and that both planes had maintenance check-ups in July.
SERIES OF FOKKER PROBLEMS
The mishaps follow a series of accidents
involving TAM's 108-seat Fokker-100s and come as the company struggles
through a tough period for the Brazilian airline industry, which
has seen its dollar-based fuel and parts costs skyrocket the past
two years due to a sharp depreciation of the local currency.
Maintaining Fokker planes became even
more expensive after the Dutch manufacturer went bankrupt in 1997.
TAM is in the process of replacing them with new Airbus and possibly
locally made Embraer jets.
"There's not an abnormal history
of problems (with the Fokker-100s), but they are expensive and you
have to keep feeding them," said Richard Aboulafia, vice president
of the Teal Group, a Washington-based aerospace consulting group.
In Brazil's last major air disaster in
1996, a TAM Fokker-100 jet crashed shortly after take-off from Sao
Paulo, killing all 96 aboard and two people on the ground.
On April 3 the door of a TAM Fokker-100
fell off after take-off, but the plane turned around and landed
safely. In September 2001, one passenger was sucked out of a TAM
Fokker-100 and three were injured in a forced landing after a loss
of cabin pressure.
TAM said the first plane was flying from
Sao Paulo to Campo Grande, the capital of Mato Grosso do Sul state
in the center of South America. The second plane was flying to Sao
Paulo from the coast city of Salvador in Bahia state.