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VARIG’s history is linked with regional flights, after all VARIG and Brazilian commercial aviation began with a regional route in Rio Grande do Sul state, in 1927. In the 40s, VARIG started to connect the state capitals, Porto Alegre, Florianópolis, Curitiba, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. In the 50s started international flights, and reached Brazil’s North and Northeast. In the 60s VARIG become the largest airline in Latin America and began to focus more on international flights and domestic routes linking major urban centers. But VARIG did not forgot regional routes. In partnership with Top Taxi Aéreo, VARIG created its regional subsidiary named Rio Sul Linhas Aéreas, on August 24, 1976. Rio Sul was responsible for regional flights in Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, Paraná and Rio de Janeiro states and part of São Paulo and Espírito Santo states. The first route was exactly the same VARIG’s inaugural route, the “Lagoon Line”. The first flight was on September 9, 1976 between Porto Alegre, Rio Grande and Pelotas. Rio Sul’s fleet was composed of eight Piper Navajo, seven Embraer EMB-110 and executive jets.


7xEmbraer EMB-110 (16 assentos)
3xPiper PA-31 Navajo (7 assentos)


Route Map:


In May 1982 Rio Sul received its first two turboprop Fokker F-27, which allowed the company to expand its operations and the number of seats. In 1986 Rio Sul incorporated its first two Embraer EMB-120, which began to replace EMB-110. Besides having higher passenger capacity, the EMB-120 incorporated technological advances, had pressurized cabin and could fly higher, reducing turbulence.


6xEmbraer EMB-110
4xEmbraer EMB-120
6xFokker F-27


Route Map:



Embraer EMB-120 "Brasília"

The first Embraer EMB-120 arrived on February 1988. Embraer EMB-120 was chosen to replace the EMB-110 and offered several advantages as largest passenger capacity, longer range, higher speed and a pressurized cabin. The EMB-120 was able to fly at the same altitude of jet aircraft, resulting in less turbulence and fuel economy.

Length: 20.07 m
Wingspan: 19.78 m
Height: 6.35 m
Maximum Takeoff Weight: 11 tons
Fuel capacity: 3280 liters
Engines: 2x Pratt & Whitney PW118B
Cruising speed: 500 km/h
Cruising Altitude: 9000 meters
Range: 1500 km
Passengers: 30


Fokker F-27

In May 1982 Rio Sul received its first two Fokker F-27 Mk200 version. The third came in April and the fourth in September. With the F-27-200, Rio Sul increase the number of seats in high demand routes and let EMB-110 free to make new routes. With the success of Fokker, Rio Sul ordered new units, this time of the Mk500 version, larger than Mk200. The first F-27-500 arrived in January 1985. The following year came more two units.

Length: 23.56 m / 25.06 m
Wingspan: 29.00 m
Height: 8.50 m / 8.84 m
Maximum Takeoff Weight: 19 tons
Engines: 2x Rolls Royce Mk528 Dark - 7 / Rolls Royce Mk536 Dark 7 - 7
Fuel capacity: 3000 liters / 5000 liters
Cruising speed: 430 km/h
Cruising Altitude: 7000 meters
Range: 2000 km / 1300 km
Passengers: 40/52


In 1992 entered into operation the modern turboprop Fokker F-50. Also Rio Sul’s first jet aircraft, the Boeing 737-500. The B737 brought a new level of comfort for Rio Sul’s passengers. It was configured with only 108 seats, becoming the most spacious aircraft in Brazil. With Fokker 50 and B737-500, Rio Sul expanded its network into other Brazil’s regions as Minas Gerais, Bahia and Federal District.

With the purchase of Nordeste regional airlines, in 1995, Rio Sul become one of the largest regional airlines in the world, with a fleet of over 30 aircraft.
Nordeste airlines was created by Transbrasil Bahia’s government. The company was founded in November 1975 with the objective to operate regional flights in Bahia, Sergipe, Alagoas, Pernambuco, Paraíba, Rio Grande do Norte, Ceará and Piauí states and part of Maranhão, Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo states and Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Brasília city. The first aircraft was Embraer EMB-110. Nordeste undergone a major transformation in 1995, when it was bought by Rio Sul, VARIG’s subsidiary. The company's fleet was renovated with modern Embraer EMB-120, Fokker F-50 and Boeing 737-500 aircraft. Under Rio Sul’s command, Nordeste expanded its network throughout Brazil and now serve more than thirty cities

With the pioneering spirit of its parent company, VARIG, in August 1997, Rio Sul becomes the first airline in the Southern Hemisphere to operate a jet manufactured in Brazil, the new Embraer jet ERJ-145. At that time, Rio Sul and Nordeste had nearly 50 aircraft that served more than 60 destinations in Brazil, including Rio de Janeiro - São Paulo “Ponte Aérea” route.
In 1998 Rio Sul and Nordeste presented its new visual identity, aligning with VARIG.




Rio Sul
9xBoeing 737-500
10xEmbraer EMB-120
6xEmbraer ERJ-145
8xFokker F-50


2xBoeing 737-500
6xEmbraer EMB-120
2xFokker F-50


Route Map:


Fokker F-50

Fokker F-50 began operation in Rio Sul on April 1992. The F-50 is a modern turboprop released in the 90s with the latest technological advances. In Rio Sul and Nordeste, Fokker F-50 was selected to replace Fokker F-27. The new F-50 could fly farther and faster, and more silent and economical.

Length: 25,25 m
Wingspan: 29.00 m
Height: 8.32 m
Maximum takeoff weight: 20 tons
Engines: 2x P & W Canada PW125B
Fuel capacity: 4000 liters
Cruising speed: 530 km/h
Cruising altitude: 7000 km
Passengers: 50
Range: 2050 km


Boeing 737-500

Rio Sul revolutionized Brazil’s regional market when brought the very modern and comfortable Boeing 737-500. Originally designed for 133 seats, Rio Sul’s Boeing 737500 was comfortable configured to only 108 seats, becoming the most comfortable aircraft of Brazil. The first two units arrived in 1992 and began operating for Rio Sul. In 1995 Nordeste also began operate it.

Length: 31 m
Wingspan: 28.7 m
Height: 11.1m
Weight (empty): 46 tons
Maximum Takeoff Weight: 55 tons
Engines: 2x CFM56 - 3C1 (9072kg each)
Cruising speed: 800 km / h
Range: 4400 km
Passengers: 108 or 111 or 120


Embraer ERJ-145

Rio Sul was the first airline in the Southern Hemisphere to operate the new ERJ-145. With a regional jet, Rio Sul can offer to its passengers all the advantages of a jet aircraft in its regional routes. ERJ-145 first flight was on September 15, 1997 between Rio de Janeiro and Campinas and then between Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte. The ERJ-145 have pressurized cabin and digital equipment with the most advanced technology available in the market. ERJ-145 was a big hit among passengers, operating even in “Ponte Aére” Rio de Janeiro - São Paulo. The aircraft was known as "Jet Class".

Length: 29.87 m
Wingspan: 20.04 m
Height: 6.75 m
Weight (empty): 11 tons
Maximum Takeoff Weight: 20 tons
Engines: 2x Rolls Royce Allison AE3007A
Cruising speed: 833 km/h
Range: 2460 km
Passengers: 50



In 2000 Rio Sul received its first Boeing 737-300 to increase the number of seats. In 2001, Rio Sul started to operate with Boeing 737-700, the Boeing 737NG new generation, and Nordeste was the first airline in Brazil to use the fuselage of its aircraft to paint advertisements. The following year, Rio Sul retired its last EMB-120 and started operating only jets.
In 2003, Rio Sul and Nordeste started the merging process with VARIG, completed in 2004.




Rio Sul
4xBoeing 737-300
14xBoeing 737-500
3xBoeing 737-700
12xEmbraer ERJ-145


3xBoeing 737-300
4xBoeing 737-500
3xEmbraer ERJ-145


Route Map:



Rio Sul history - FLAp magazine


Nordeste history - FLAP magazine







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