"The owner of a regional air taxi company who started out as an aircraft cleaner on Tuesday took over Transbrasil SA, Brazil's fourth-largest airline, grounded since early December after failing to pay fuel bills.. . . .Dilson Prado, the 36-year-old owner of Fly Brazil air taxis, a small regional company based in the interior state of Goias, was taking over the company and planned to inject an initial dlrs 25 million to get the ailing carrier flying again, according to stock exchange statements.
Over the next six months, the statements said a further dlrs 85 million would be pumped into the company that currently has debts of more than dlrs 380 million.
A ruling by Brazil's Civil Aviation Department said Transbrasil must get its aircraft back in the air by Feb. 3, or lose concessions on 22 domestic routes and one to the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires.
Brazil's two major carriers Varig and TAM were both said to be interested in picking off the most profitable of those routes.
Prado got his first job in the aviation business at 14 when he started cleaning planes for a local carrier. He went on to become an air traffic controller before founding Fly Brazil.
There was no immediate comment from Prado but Marco Antonio Barbosa, a trade union representative at Transbrasil, said the new owner met with employees in Sao Paulo Tuesday.
Prado promised to operate a fleet of five passenger aircraft and two cargo planes and pledged to reinstate about four-fifths of the 1,350 workers dismissed by the former management, Barbosa said.
"It's a solution. We are very relieved,'' Barbosa said, adding that the company's remaining 1,700 workers had gone unpaid for five months.
Transbrasil was grounded Dec. 3, when its fuel suppliers refused to extend further credit to cover its bills. Since 1999, Transbrasil has posted losses of 365.5 million reals (dlrs 155 million).
Former Transbrasil President Antonio Celso Cipriani has been accused by former company executives of creaming off Transbrasil funds to develop a resort in the United States.
It was not clear whether Cipriani would stay on in some capacity under the new management."