Citing airport construction, NBAA cancels LABACE 2006

 - September 14, 2006, 9:32 AM

Almost since its first show in 2003, the Latin American Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition (LABACE) has struggled to establish its identity as a region-wide Latin American show. The show has recently encountered more turbulence–first with the format and then with the cancellation of this year’s event, which was scheduled to be held next month.

Aware of dissatisfaction on the part of exhibitors and attendees alike, show organizers–NBAA and the Associacao Brasileira de Aviacao Geral (ABAG)–had planned changes to this year’s show.

The exhibit hall, which had been at the Transamerica Expo Center–more than an
hour’s drive from the static display at Congonhas Airport–was moved to Varig hangar space at the airport, adjacent to the new and larger static display parking ramp. NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen also noted that the associations had made plans to renew emphasis on the Latin American region aspect of the show.

All seemed well until this spring, when it became obvious that an accelerated airport construction plan would dramatically reduce the amount of space available for the static display. And, added Bolen, there was the dust and the noise generated by the construction.

On June 7, NBAA and ABAG announced their intent to “reschedule this year’s event…in the best interest of our members, exhibitors, attendees and future LABACE

The decision was prompted, said NBAA, by the loss of the Varig Engenharia e Manutencao ramp space.

As a result, this year’s show was cancelled and, Bolen added, the odds are against it being rescheduled for later in the year. Next year is “a reasonable time frame,” he said, pointing out that the Asian Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition is in the first quarter, followed by the European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition in the second quarter, and the NBAA Convention in the fourth quarter.

While vendors and exhibitors seem to agree that canceling the 2006 show was the only viable solution, some expressed disappointment about the manner in which it was handled.

“We’re both disappointed and frustrated by the decision [-making] process that has led to a situation in which there will be no business aviation show in Latin America at all this year,” said a Bombardier spokesman. He noted that the show has “been in a slow downward spiral since [its 2003 launch].” Nevertheless, he added, “We’ve always had an exhibit and always brought aircraft for the static display, and we were looking forward to doing the same this year.”

A spokesman for Gulfstream also expressed disappointment at the cancellation, noting that, “It has proved to be a very good show for us.” And he added that the cancellation did not necessarily mean that Gulfstream would cancel its own plans. “Some of our activities will go on,” he said.

Bolen said organizers would move to institute “changes that would help turn LABACE into the kind of success we have seen at EBACE.”