Image: Embraer 190
Str  /  Reuters
People look at an Embraer 190 aircraft that performed an emergency landing July 17 at Simon Bolivar airport in Santa Marta, about 800 miles north of Bogota. The flight originating in Cali, slid when landing on the wet runway.
updated 7/18/2007 4:57:25 PM ET 2007-07-18T20:57:25

Colombia is considering relocating an airport in the resort town of Santa Marta a day after a passenger plane skidded off a wet runway and into the Caribbean Sea, causing minor injuries to seven people.

The Brazilian-made Embraer 190 plane operated by Aero Republica was carrying 59 people from Cali when it skidded along the wet tarmac and slid halfway into the water while attempting to land at Simon Bolivar Airport.

Tuesday's incident in Colombia came the same day as least 189 people were killed in Sao Paulo, Brazil when an airliner crashed after trying to land on a short, rain-slicked runway.

Colombia's Transportation Minister Andres Uriel Gallego said Wednesday the government would study a long-standing proposal to privatize and relocate the Santa Marta airport in order to free up some 1.5 miles of white-sand beaches for tourism development.

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Currently the beachfront property next to the airport's runway is off-limits to development.

Aero Republica on Wednesday began to remove the partly submerged aircraft even as authorities searched for the plane's flight recorder to pinpoint the causes of the crash.

"In 35-45 days we hope to have an answer," said Fernando Sanclemente, head of the civil aviation authority.

The airport's 5,575 feet runway — compared to 9,850 feet at Bogota's El Dorado international airport — is one of the country's shortest and other airlines complained Wednesday about difficulties landing there.

"We've also had some problems at the airport," said Fabio Villegas, President of Avianca, the country's largest airline. "I think it's worth the effort for aviation authorities, together with the airlines, take another look at any operational limits that exist at the airport."

Aero Republica is a subsidiary of Copa Holdings SA, the parent company of Panama's national airline.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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