Belém/Val de Cans–Júlio Cezar Ribeiro International Airport (IATA: BEL, ICAO: SBBE) is the main airport serving Belém, Brazil. Val de Cans (sometimes spelled Val de Cães) is the name of the neighborhood where the airport is located. Since 13 April 2010 the airport is named also after Júlio Cezar Ribeiro de Souza (1837–1887) a researcher of balloons.
In 1934 General Eurico Gaspar Dutra, then the Director of the Military Aviation, appointed Lieutenant Armando Sierra de Menezes to choose in Val de Cans a site where an airport was to be built. The Directorate of Civil Aeronautics, an agency of the Ministry of Traffic and Public Works, would be in charge of the work. Val de Cans began its history as land track running along the east/west axis with 1,200m. The facility comprised a courtyard, a hangar and a parking structure of concrete for military aircraft, which later became known as "Yellow Hangar."
With the outbreak of World War II air bases and airports located on the Brazilian coast became immensely important in the support of transportation of aircraft, personnel and equipment across the South Atlantic Ocean to Sierra Leone in West Africa. These facilities provided the necessary logistical support for the thousands of planes that, manufactured in Canada and the United States were moved to North Africa and Europe. After protracted negotiations between Brazil and the United States, airstrips were built at Belém for the Air Transport Command with two runways measuring 1,500 x 45 meters on a basis of concrete and asphalt and comprising modern airport facilities, able to meet efficiently civil aviation and military needs. Val de Cans and other air bases used by the Americans during World War II were returned to the Ministry of Aeronautics in 1945.
Panair do Brasil, Pan American, and NAB – Navegação Aérea Brasileira began their activities at Val de Cans building their stations and providing services to passengers. In 1958, the Ministry of Aeronautics began building the first passenger terminal for general airline use, which was opened on 24 January 1959. It was then administered by the Department of Civil Aviation. In 1974 its administration was transferred to Infraero.
The original passenger terminal complex underwent major renovation and expansion, which was completed in 2001: in 1999 a brand-new passenger terminal located at the side of the old terminal was built and after its opening, the old terminal was demolished to give place for an extension to the new terminal. This new extended terminal greatly increased the comfort and area available to passengers by adding 6 jetways.
14 July 1948: an Aerovias BrasilDouglas C-47A-70-DL registration PP-AVO doing a cargo flight, crashed and caught fire after taking-off from Belém-Val de Cans. All 5 passengers and crew died.
1 December 1955: a Cruzeiro do SulDouglas C-47B-28-DK registration PP-CCC after take off from Belém-Val de Cans lost power on engine no.1. Consequent technical problems led the aircraft to lose altitude and the left wing struck a tree and broke off. The aircraft stalled, hit the ground and caught fire. All 6 passengers and crew died.
11 August 1958: a Lóide Aéreo NacionalDouglas DC-4 registration PP-LEQ crashed for unknown causes over Carapí Island, Pará while on a night time visual approach to Belém-Val de Cans. Of the 11 passengers and crew aboard, 1 passenger survived.
24 February 1981: a VOTECEmbraer EMB110P Bandeirante registration PT-GLB flying from Tucuruí to Belém-Val de Cans collided with a ship in dry dock while approaching Belém in rain and high winds. The aircraft subsequently struck two barges and broke in two. The front part crashed onto a tug, and the tail section sank. Only 3 passengers of a total of 14 passengers and crew survived.
3 February 1984: a Cruzeiro do SulAirbus A300B4-203 operating flight 302 en route from São Luís to Belém-Val de Cans with 176 passengers and crew aboard was hijacked by 3 persons who demanded to be taken to Cuba. The flight reached Camagüey in less than a day. There were no victims.
^Germano da Silva, Carlos Ari César (2008). "O senhor do céu". O rastro da bruxa: história da aviação comercial brasileira no século XX através dos seus acidentes 1928–1996 (in Portuguese) (2 ed.). Porto Alegre: EDIPUCRS. p. 164. ISBN978-85-7430-760-2.
^Germano da Silva, Carlos Ari César (2008). "Um rastro na selva". O rastro da bruxa: história da aviação comercial brasileira no século XX através dos seus acidentes 1928–1996 (in Portuguese) (2 ed.). Porto Alegre: EDIPUCRS. pp. 223–228. ISBN978-85-7430-760-2.
^Germano da Silva, Carlos Ari César (2008). "O fim da Paraense". O rastro da bruxa: história da aviação comercial brasileira no século XX através dos seus acidentes 1928–1996 (in Portuguese) (2 ed.). Porto Alegre: EDIPUCRS. pp. 267–268. ISBN978-85-7430-760-2.
^Germano da Silva, Carlos Ari César (2008). "Rumo errado". O rastro da bruxa: história da aviação comercial brasileira no século XX através dos seus acidentes 1928–1996 (in Portuguese) (2 ed.). Porto Alegre: EDIPUCRS. pp. 352–360. ISBN978-85-7430-760-2.