If Brazil's economy is the powerhouse of South America, then São Paulo is its spark plug: The city alone accounts for more than 13% of Brazil's gross domestic product, leads Latin American cities in GDP, and is 10th by GDP among all the world's cities.

And by population — just under 20 million — São Paulo also ranks as the largest city in the entire Southern Hemisphere. No wonder this 458-year-old settlement's motto is “I am not led, I lead.”

In addition to being a major producer of autos, trucks, machinery, textiles and clothing, cement, chemicals, steel and lumber, São Paulo, of course, is neighbor to São José dos Campos, the headquarters of Embraer, Brazil's stellar builder of military, commercial and business aircraft. Brazil itself harbors a healthy population of indigenous business jets and turboprops serving local companies and wealthy individuals, the majority of them based in the greater São Paulo area. (For many years, the country has been Cessna Aircraft's largest export market.)

Hugely congested on the ground, São Paulo has over the last 50 years attracted the largest concentration of urban helicopters in the world — more than 500 at last count — to transport business executives and wealthy paulistanos over the mired surface traffic to the roofs of their high-rise condominiums. A portion of the fleet is leased or owned by companies, while the remainder are chartered. More than 70,000 flights per year are conducted within central São Paulo alone. All this aeronautical activity has its roots in Brazil's rich aviation heritage, dating from the activities of pioneer aviator and aircraft developer Alberto Santos-Dumont.

An indicator of the importance that São Paulo represents as a financial and business center is the huge number of foreign corporations that maintain offices in the city, led by the U.S., Germany and Sweden. Thus, going to Brazil to conduct business typically means going to São Paulo, and, as a result, the city also attracts a significant number of transient business aircraft from foreign countries.

Get Your Documents Together

While Brazilian visas are not required for pilots, they are for cabin attendants, passengers and any ancillary crewmembers, such as flight engineers and mechanics, who might be traveling with the aircraft. Tourist visas, good for five years and multiple visits (make sure the visa and passport are stamped on the first entry to “activate” the visa for future entries), are acceptable. Note that pilots arriving in Brazil by airline to pick up aircraft or for relief crew duties will need visas.

Brazilian authorities are also sticklers for type ratings and medical certificates. Briefly, all pilots of a given aircraft must hold type ratings for the aircraft they are flying, irrespective of their basic licenses (meaning Commercial Certificate holders, as well as ATPs). Not only that, but pilot certificates must have been issued by the same country in which the aircraft is registered.

Secondly, it's a good idea for all cockpit crewmembers to have First Class Medicals, as there has been some confusion among the Brazilians regarding Second Class Medicals for professional pilots. Thirdly, some type of proof of yellow fever inoculation for all crew members and passengers must be presented, otherwise aircraft occupants may face a stiff fine and be required to take the shots on site. This is not a requirement for tech stops.

At some locations, the authorities will also want to see some sort of “proof-of-proficiency” assurance, such as a flight simulator check card or logbook endorsement sticker from the operator's training provider issued within the previous six months.

Aircraft documents can be an issue, too, as the Brazilians want to see everything as originals — no copies. These include aircraft airworthiness certificate and registration, noise certificate for aircraft manufactured before 1980, and insurance certificate with worldwide coverage. Business aviation operators have been expelled from the country for not meeting this requirement, so plan accordingly.

Brazil is unique in not requiring entry or overflight permits; however, if the operator is planning to make multiple flights to different destinations within the country, then an in-country flight authorization will be required. This is obtained at the port of entry (POE) as part of the document inspection described above and will be issued by the Brazilian aviation authority. It is important to note, however, that this document must be returned to the authorities at the port of exit before the operator departs the country. It is advised to make a copy of it as a backup.

Brazil ATC adheres to ICAO procedures and QNH altimetry. “Based on feedback from flight crews I've handled, it's very professional,” said Shahin Zamini, flight planning manager at Aero Flight Solutions in Greer, S.C. Reportedly, VHF comm reception has been improved in Brazil, and since the 2006 fatal collision between a Gol airline Boeing 737 and an Embraer Legacy over the Amazon, controllers are more faithfully monitoring their frequencies.

While radar coverage has been extended over most of the huge country, pilots have reported it to be spotty in some areas and advise crews not to assume they are in radar contact all the time. They also recommend monitoring the 123.45 MHz air-to-air comm frequency, particularly over the more remote areas of Brazil — which amounts to a lot of its territory. In metropolitan areas like São Paulo, controllers' English is rated as good but can deteriorate the farther away one flies from population centers.

Parking at a Premium

The two most popular São Paulo area airports accessed by business aviation are Guarulhos International (SBGR), the designated port of entry for the city, and Congonhas (SBSP), its principal domestic airdrome. More convenient to São Paulo's downtown and amenable to general aviation, Congonhas is not a POE. Thus, arriving business aircraft must first land at Guarulhos to clear customs. Both fields require prearranged arrival slots, SBGR allowing a maximum of 45 ops per hour and SBSP 30 ops per hour. Handlers recommend reserving slots for arrivals and departures as far in advance as possible to secure their desired times.

A few years ago, Guarulhos International was limiting parking to 2 hr. — just long enough to clear, refuel if necessary and reposition to another airport. However, according to Adonis Bastos, customer service agent at Universal Weather & Aviation, “Parking at SBGR can be granted for the duration of stay, depending on availability.” Given that the active word here is “availability,” it is incumbent on the operator desiring to remain at Guarulhos to obtain confirmation for extended parking as early as possible. If parking isn't available, then the drop-and-reposition option will be necessary. In addition to Congonhas, two outlying fields — Campinas (SBKP) and Jundiai (SBJD) — are also good places to tie down for layovers.

While there are FBOs at Congonhas, none — at least in the traditional sense — exist at Guarulhos. Here's how Zamini at Aero Flight Solutions describes the SBGR arrangement: “There is a general aviation ramp at SBGR that's very spacious, plus a small building there with rest rooms and shelter for crews. When the aircraft lands, the handler meets it with a van and drives the passengers and crew to the terminal for customs clearance; from there, they can then go street-side to meet ground transportation.

“One crew we handled for a flight into SBGR told us that within a couple minutes of arrival, their aircraft was surrounded by service providers: lav, water, fuel and transportation,” Zamini continued. “Another crew whom we recently handled said they were really impressed with the services there: The providers were courteous and helpful and always asked one of the pilots before performing a service.

“Of course, we had arranged all that with the local handler, so they knew we were coming. If the handling job is done properly, the services on the other side should be done well, too. We provided a lot of information for that flight ahead of time to the handler, Lider Aviation, that we use there. There are others there as well.”

Fuel at SBGR is provided by the Brazilian refiner Petrobras and, like slots and parking, should be scheduled through handlers and contract fuelers as far in advance as possible — Zamini recommends 48 to 72 hr. prior to scheduled departure, as the airport can get congested. For one of the crews mentioned earlier, Zamini said, “the airport authorities knew it was a Global Express that would be arriving and would need a lot of fuel, and so they sent two trucks — all because we ordered early. It's a good idea to avoid peak periods anyway.” Pricing, at least this summer, is pretty competitive — less than $4/gallon.

Departing, crews are accompanied to a designated place in the passenger terminal by the handler, who also takes care of luggage, security clearance and expedited CIQ clearance. “Then the handler accompanies the crew and passengers to vans on the ramp that transport them to the airplane,” Zamini said. “If the luggage is extensive, it will be transported separately — be aware that you will not be able to see it in that case.”

Security is “everywhere” at SBGR, Zamini claimed, “lots of guard posts with secured gates. Crews have felt safe and that they did not need additional guards for the aircraft.”

Full-Service Airport

At Congonhas, operators can park for the duration of their stays; however, as at Guarulhos, only if ramp space is sufficient. Fuel of good quality is readily available and can be purchased with most fuel and credit cards once a fuel release is obtained. All other services a business jet might need (lav, water, line maintenance, etc.) can be had at SBSP — even good catering from a flight kitchen on the field. (For Guarulhos, Zamini cited a Marriott hotel just outside the gates that he said crews have rated highly for catering.)

Asked about the security situation at Congonhas, Bastos responded that each FBO has its own security system in place. “Aprons and airside areas will not be accessed by people other than crew, passengers and authorized agents.” At SBSP, armed guards are not permitted, and limousines are barred from ramps. Altogether, the airport is quite secure.

While the downtown airports do not host business jet service centers, Bastos provided a directory of where they can be found in São Paulo State: Embraer and Bombardier, São José dos Campos (SBSJ); Cessna Citation, Jundiai (SDJD); and Dassault Falcon Jet and Gulfstream at Sorocaba (SDCO), 65 mi. to the west.

While carbon trading for aviation is currently not an issue in Brazil, Zamini said officials in Brasilia, the capital, are “talking about it.” While the city government of Rio de Janeiro will implement a new carbon trading market for surface industries in 2013, the solons there have not indicated thus far whether it will be extended to cover aviation emissions. “The general consensus,” he said, “is that this is the camel's nose under the tent!”

What is now São Paulo stemmed from the first permanent Portuguese colony in the New World, São Vicente, established on the Brazilian coast in 1532. Twenty-two years later, Jesuit missionaries and Tibirica Indians converted to Christianity traveled 68 km inland and founded São Paulo dos Campos de Piratininga — today's São Paulo, which also serves as capital of São Paulo State. Its “Wall Street” is Paulista Avenue, home of the second largest stock exchange in the world in market value. The city is known for its parks, monuments, and several museums, including the Museum of the Portuguese Language and the São Paulo Museum of Art. BCA

City at a Glance: São Paulo

Country: Federative Republic of Brazil

Status: Brazil's largest city and financial center

Country visa requirement: Yes, for passengers who are U.S. citizens; however, not required for flight crews traveling aboard the aircraft, excluding cabin attendants (who must have visas).

Landing permit requirement: Yes

Sponsor letter required: No

Aircraft documents required: Airworthiness certificate, registration, insurance certificate with country coverage, noise certificate for aircraft manufactured prior to 1980. Note: Brazil requires original copies.

Any other requirements for visiting aircraft: No

Carbon trading requirement: Currently, no, but under consideration

ATC procedures: ICAO/Pans Ops

Any unique procedures: No

Altimetry: QNH

Metric or feet: Feet

RVSM: Yes

WGS 84-compliant: Yes

Local navigator required: No

Airports:

Airport #1

Name & ICAO identifier: São Paulo/Guarulhos-Governador André Franco Montoro International Airport (SBGR)

Coordinates: 23o 25' 55”S, 46o 28' 10”W

POE: Yes

Elevation: 2,459 ft.

Runways: 9R/27L, 9,843 ft. x 148 ft.; 9L/27R, 12,140 ft. x 148 ft.; both asphalt (PCN 085FBWT) and equipped with ILS approaches

Slots: Yes, 45 ops per hour

Curfew: No

FBOs: No

Clear CIQ at: Passenger terminal

Parking: Off site (i.e., remotely); note that parking is always an issue at São Paulo airports, as airlines receive priority. Situations can develop seasonally when general aviation parking may be prohibited or limited to only a few hours, requiring operators to drop passengers and reposition to another airport. Recommend operators desiring to remain at SBGR have their handlers confirm that parking is available.

Hangarage: Generally not available for transient aircraft

Fuel: Jet-A, sold by Petrobras

Credit: Most fuel cards; credit can be arranged locally through Petrobras.

Maintenance: Yes, arranged by local handlers

Lav service: Yes

Catering: Airline catering available; however, hotels recommended.

Fees: Landing, parking, handling; expensive, based on aircraft size

Security: Guards and guard posts at many locations; the airport is considered very secure. If hiring outside security to protect aircraft, guards must be registered with airport administration (INFRAERO, the outsourced company that operates most of Brazil's airports).

Ground transportation: Taxies, buses and rental cars available; as there are security issues with some taxis, it is recommended to have handler hire vetted cars and drivers.

Distance and driving time to downtown: Approximately 25 km/16 sm; driving time depends on time of day, as surface transportation can be extremely congested.

Airport #2

Name & ICAO identifier: Congonhas-São Paulo Airport (SBSP)

Coordinates: 23 o 37' 36”S, 46 o 29' 19”W

POE: No

Elevation: 2,631 ft.

Runways: 17R/35L, 6,365 ft. x 147 ft., asphalt (PCN 050FBXT), ILS; 17L/35R, 4,708 ft. x 147 ft. asphalt (PCN 038FBXU)

Slots: Yes, 30 ops per hour

Curfew: Yes, 0200-0900Z

FBOs: Yes

Parking: Long-term only on availability; have handlers arrange as far in advance as possible.

Hangarage: On availability, most likely for light and midsize aircraft

Fuel: Jet-A1, available 0800-0200Z

Credit: Fuel cards, credit cards with fuel release

Maintenance: Light maintenance; no designated service centers on field

Lav service: Yes

Catering: There is a flight kitchen on the airport; hotels.

Fees: Landing, parking, handling

Security: FBOs secure their own areas; only flight crews, passengers, and vetted agents allowed airside. Overall, airport rated as very secure. Armed guards are prohibited on airport.

Ground transportation: Recommend vetted cars and drivers arranged by handlers.

Distance and driving time to downtown: Airport located within downtown area; 15- to 45-min. drive to most business/financial areas.

BCA thanks Aero Flight Solutions and Universal Weather & Aviation for their assistance in preparing this report.