The LABACE show’s 11th edition opens today with the mood of Brazilian business and general aviation cautiously optimistic. “Once more in 2013 the market grew by 5 to 6 percent, as it has for the last decade,” Eduardo Marson, president of industry group ABAG told a press conference here in São Paulo on Friday.
There are signs, however, that the current year has been a difficult one for general aviation, as a reflection of economic upheaval across Latin America and, specifically, the restrictions placed on operators during the soccer World Cup hosted by Brazil in June and July. A fuller picture of the state of Brazilian business aviation is provided by the fourth annual yearbook published by ABAG this week.
Many of those issues facing the industry will be topics of discussion here at the show as manufacturers, operators, support companies and customers come together at São Paulo’s Congonhas Airport. Ricardo Nogueira, director general of ABAG, told reporters that a continued lack of investment in airports is a key issue, and this appears not to be getting constructive attention in Brazil’s current election campaign.
“We’ve seen little effort to handle more aircraft, only to handle more passengers,” he said. “There’s been a focus on terminals, and not on airports. There has been nothing relevant to improve capacity for air traffic, only localized, uncoordinated and temporary actions.”
Referring to government plans to greatly expand the number of regional airports in the country, Nogueira noted that, “We don’t see [the planned] 270 airports. And don’t even ask me about 800 [a number floated by the government last year].”
Despite the challenges faced by the industry, its general health can be gauged by the fact that the LABACE show continues to grow. ABAG claims exhibitor numbers are up 2 percent and that the exhibition area has increased by 10 percent. While the number of expected aircraft is slightly down, at 65, there are a greater number of larger aircraft on show. Visitor numbers are expected to at least match previous years, and analysis shows that a healthy 32 percent of them will be from upper management levels.
This year has also seen a rise in the number of custom-built stands, while some OEMs that have traditionally only exhibited through representation by local partners are attending in their own right. Among those companies are Textron Bell Helicopter, and Russian Helicopters, which is making its LABACE debut.
One question that remains unanswered is the exact location of the LABACE event in 2015, but Nogueira is hopeful that it will remain at Congonhas, if the site is available. “It’s a large airshow in attendance because it’s at Congonhas, inside São Paulo city,” he said, adding that other cities such as Belo Horizonte would not attract the same attendance. “If you look back at the publicity for LABACE 2014, it says ‘São Paulo’ but it doesn’t say ‘Congonhas,’ and the 2015 publicity says the same.”
If Congonhas is not available, Campo de Marte seems to be the second choice option. However, there are some restrictions on aircraft operations. “For the larger jets, it would require insurance waivers and such,” explained Nogueira, “but we’re looking into it.”