Sao Paulo's millionaires use helicopters to avoid traffic jams
More of Brazil's uber-rich are using helicopters to avoid gridlock of its commercial capital
Model turned business mogul Cozete Gomes owns eight companies and does not really have time to be stuck in Sao Paulo's epic traffic jams. So she just flies over them.
In Brazil's sprawling business capital, home to 20 million people, millionaires sick of nightmarish bottlenecks on the roads are taking to the skies, relying on a massive fleet of private helicopters to get around town.
"For me, the helicopter is a necessary tool," Gomes said as she flew high above the clogged streets into Campos de Jordao, northeast of Sao Paulo - a mountain resort for the rich dubbed the "Brazilian Switzerland".
"I use it in my day-to-day activities, for my business, my meetings. It makes my life a whole lot easier," she said during the 50-minute ride this month in a private six-seat helicopter.
There are 420 helicopters registered in Sao Paulo - second only to New York, said the Brazilian Association of Helicopter Pilots.
With a net worth estimated at US$125 million, Gomes, 41, is part of a select group of super-rich elite who either own helicopters or can afford to rent them for US$1,300 an hour.
There are up to 500 helicopter flights daily in Sao Paulo and the city has a staggering 193 heliports. Helicicade, the city's largest, boasts nearly 80 helicopters owned either by individuals or private companies.
"The helicopter business in Brazil has been growing about 20 per cent in recent years," said Carolina Denardi, a spokeswoman for the Brazilian Association of Helicopter Pilots. The country had a nationwide fleet of more than 1,900 helicopters, including nearly 700 in Sao Paulo state alone, the association said. On average, more than 300 operator licences have been issued annually in the past three years.
While most Sao Paulo residents struggle to get around the city, wealthy executives and socialites - oblivious to the maddening gridlock - cruise overhead, hopping to their luxury condos, beach resorts or business meetings.
In the Wealth Report 2013 published by Wealth-X, a Singapore-based wealth intelligence firm, Sao Paulo was last year home to 1,880 individuals with net assets of US$30 million or more.
Gomes - a former model and beauty queen whose eight companies focus on promotional marketing, event management and modelling - says she is one of the few Brazilian women to have built her fortune on her own.