SAO PAULO, Brazil - Brazil's deadliest jetliner crash was an accident foretold. For months, air safety concerns have been aired in congressional hearings, and pilots and traffic controllers have worried for years about the short, slippery runways at Brazil's busiest airport.
Landing on the 6,362-foot-long runway at Sao Paulo's Congonhas airport is so challenging that pilots liken it to an aircraft carrier - if they don't touch down precisely within the tarmac's first 1,000 feet, they're warned to pull up and circle around again.
The ungrooved runway becomes even more treacherous in the rain when it turns into a slick landing surface.
The runway appears to have been a key factor in Tuesday's crash, and critics condemned President Luis Inacio da Silva's government Wednesday for failing to invest in safety measures adopted by other urban airports.
None of the 186 people on board survived, TAM Linhas Aereas SA chief executive Marco Antonio Bologna said Wednesday. Three TAM workers on the ground also died and another 11 were hospitalized.
Firefighters pulled at least 171 charred bodies from the site where the Airbus-320 crashed, igniting in a 1,830-degree fireball.
The plane slammed into a gas station and a TAM Airlines building after narrowly clearing the airport's perimeter fence and rush-hour traffic on a surrounding highway.
'What appears to have happened is that he didn't manage to land and he tried to take off again,' said Capt. Marcos, a spokesman for the Sao Paulo Fire Department, who would not release his last name in accordance with department guidelines.
Also, video footage of the landing shows TAM Flight 3054 from Porto Alegre coming in faster than other planes, said Sen. Deonstenes Torres, chief of a Senate commission investigating problems with Brazilian civil aviation.
'On parts of the runway that most planes took 11 seconds to traverse, this plane took three,' Torres said.
Torres said the plane's two black boxes would be sent the U.S. for analysis. Meanwhile, French and U.S. safety investigators are assisting the Brazilians in probing the cause of the crash.
International air safety experts have long warned of the danger of just such an accident on the short runway at Sao Paulo's airport, especially in heavy rain.
Only the day before, two other planes skidded off the runway's end.
But Bologna said it was too early to say what went wrong.
'We have to wait for the results of the investigations to know the cause,' he said. 'It would be premature to make any assumptions about the runway.'