Labace 2010 rides wave of Latin American growth

 - August 27, 2010, 7:17 AM

In the three years since the Latin American Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition (Labace) was relaunched, it has benefited from an increasingly healthy economic environment in Latin America and in particular in host country Brazil.
More than 14,000 visitors this year attended the three-day show–the seventh–500 more than last year. Labace also hosted a record-setting number of static display aircraft (56) and exhibitors (150).

Show organizer Abag (Associação Brasileira de Aviação Geral, General Aviation Association of Brazil) estimated that Labace 2010 would generate some $500 million in business over the next year, roughly $250 million more than credited to last year’s show.

While “doing business” dominated the show, Abag president Francisco Lyra, speaking at the opening general session, expressed the importance of general aviation in Brazil, and in particular business aviation. Lyra noted that of 5,600 cities in Brazil, only 124 have scheduled airline service and that for many cities, air is the only means of transportation in and out. “We are not a volume carrier like the airlines, but we have much greater coverage,” he pointed out.

More important, he explained, business aviation carries the investors and economic drivers who generate growth. This is the reason, he explained, for Abag’s new slogan: “Where general aviation lands, the economy takes off.”

He said that Abag agrees in general with government efforts to improve the aviation infrastructure, but he emphasized, “We want to be part of it.”

Issues he believes must be addressed, and soon, include airport capacity that cannot keep up with the demand for air travel, and a lack of pilot training programs that might force Brazilian aviation to look abroad for pilots.

Labace guest Solange Vieira, president of the ANAC (Agência Nacional de Aviação Civil, National Civil Aviation Agency), said there has been no tendency on the part of her agency to ignore business aviation. She explained that it is the government, rather than her regulatory agency, that is responsible for improvements in the aviation infrastructure. Vieira, who took over ANAC in 2007, also added, “Due to the growth and importance of executive aviation, it is a good alternative to have executive airports for this segment in big cities; [however,] this does not mean excluding executive aviation from other airports.”

As a guest speaker at the general session, NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen was emphatic in his call for greater recognition of the contributions of business aviation.
Bolen described the industry segment as a “road” connecting the world, in a manner not unlike the Silk Road, which flourished from the second century BC through the 14th century AD and launched the idea of a global economy. Aviation, and in particular business aviation, is an economic facilitator and Brazil is a leader in this role, Bolen told his audience.

Encouraging the construction of new airports in Brazil, Bolen explained that many of today’s busiest airports began as small, general aviation airports that facilitated economic growth. In concluding, he pointed out that three kilometers of highway will carry you three kilometers, “But if you build three kilometers of runway, you can go anywhere in the world.”

Building a new airport for the exclusive use of business aviation, said Lyra, would benefit both business and commercial aviation. “We’re advocating a private sector-funded airport for business aviation, which would free up 20 percent of the available slots at Congonhas Airport for use by commercial aviation.”

He added that Abag has identified several possible locations within 50 miles of downtown São Paulo that would be appropriate for a three-million-square-meter general aviation airport. The association has also begun a search for private investors in such a project.

Meanwhile, demand for air travel in Brazil continues to grow. At this year’s Labace, aviation services provider Lider Aviação reported the sale of four aircraft in the first two days of the event. The São Paulo-based company expected to close on another nine airplanes before the end of the show.

Lider and other exhibitors reported that the only problem with Labace 2010 was that the sheer number of qualified buyers threatened to overwhelm the schedules of sales personnel.

Dassault Falcon CEO John Rosanvallon told AIN at the show that based on activity at Labace, his sales goal in Brazil for this year is $150 million. The French OEM again brought its Falcon 7X to Labace and this time added to
its static display the newly certified Falcon 2000LX.

Hawker Beechcraft had a major presence at Labace, bringing a Baron piston twin, King Air 350i and King Air 90GTx, Premier I, Hawker 400XP, Hawker 900XP and a Hawker 4000. Several of the aircraft, including the 4000, were scheduled to make a demonstration tour through South America following Labace, with stops in at least Argentina, Chile, Peru and Colombia.

Over the past year, the Brazilian market for Hawkers (including military sales) has been better than the U.S. market, said Keith Nadolski, president for the Americas for the Hawker line.

This year’s Labace attracted Citation CJ4 for a Labace debut. Along with it were a Citation X, a Mustang, a Turbo 206 Stationair, a Grand Caravan and a Corvalis 400 piston single. The CJ4, with a range of 2,000 nm, can carry five passengers nonstop to any point in Brazil, and Cessna believes the airplane will find a ready market in that largest of Latin American countries.

Gulfstream, with 24 aircraft in service in Brazil and some 110 in service throughout Latin America, was at Labace with the G150, G200, G450 and G550. Senior v-p of international sales Roger Sperry pointed out that most of that Brazilian fleet has entered service in the past six years. The 24th airplane, a G550, was delivered just days before Labace 2010 opened.

The G550 on display at La­bace made the nonstop trip from the company’s Savannah, Ga. base to São Paulo, a distance of some 4,000 nm, in a record eight hours and 50 minutes with three crew and six passengers, averaging Mach 0.80.
Brazilian OEM Embraer took advantage of Labace to introduce its new Legacy 650. The company expects to have the airplane certified before year-end, with deliveries beginning shortly thereafter. The manufacturer this year plans to deliver 120 Phenom 100s and 300s, and a mixed bag of 17 Legacy 600s and Lineage 1000s.
Among the helicopter exhibitors, AgustaWestland attended with a new executive version of its AW139.

Although no example was on display at Labace, Bell announced it would deliver the first 429 in Brazil before year-end. The Brazilian market accounts for approximately 20 percent of the company’s orders.

Helicopter and rotary-wing services provider Helibras, a Eurocopter company, opened Labace with delivery of two helicopters–an EC130 and an AS350B3–bringing its year-to-date delivery total to 20.

José Eduardo Brandão, marketing and sales director of OceanAir Táxi Aéreo in São Paulo and one of Abag’s founders, said not only has Labace matured, but it is becoming more and more a show for all of Latin America. “I have seen customers this year from Argentina, Colombia and Chile.”

One concern for Labace organizers is the possibility that the show will need a new venue in the future. The four most recent events have been held at Congonhas Airport, just minutes from downtown São Paulo, and the entire show is contained on a single site. But according to Lyra, owner Infraereo is negotiating with a new resident.

While Abag does not anticipate negotiations will move ahead quickly enough to threaten next year’s Labace, scheduled for August 11 to 13, the association is already looking for alternative sites.