LABACE Convention News

Varied Groups Support Brazil Aviation

 - August 9, 2017, 7:16 PM
Brazilian Ballooning Championships

A lot of flying activity that's not business aviation, nonetheless relies on many of the same resources that keep business aircraft flying—airports, mechanics, pilots, regulations, for example. While ABAG, the Brazilian Association for General Aviation, is the broadest representative of general aviation, and the organizer of the LABACE show, other organizations, some of which participate in LABACE, represent other, narrower, or even conflicting interests.

ABTAer, the Brazilian Association of Air Taxi and Maintenance Shops, has nearly 80 member firms in 19 Brazilian states. Since its founding in 2010 it's held eight national meetings of members, and is still led by founder, Milton Arantes. Dealing with regulators comes first in its statement of purpose, and specific issues have included: slow processing of required paperwork; freeing up airport slots; and ensuring charter firms receive benefits extended to other aviation sectors, as in tax treatment. Collective bargaining for members has achieved fuel purchasing discounts and readjustment of rates paid by banks for transporting documents, an important but shrinking share of the country's charter business. Another ongoing concern is “pirate” or gray-market charters, which cut into charter firms' business, without the expense of meeting the same standards.

ABTAer members are more widely distributed than ABAG members, especially in the Center-West and Amazon regions where there are vast areas that can be reached only by river or by air. They tend toward smaller aircraft, the utility Cessna Caravan turboprop single being the vehicle of choice—or the object of desire; and members still represent an aviation of romance and adventure. At one meeting, a senator sympathetic to aviation was described thus: “a pilot, and he's one of us. He's flown miners to gold strikes, he's crashed in the forest and been rescued by Indians.” The characterization met with general nods of recognition, and satisfaction.

Brazil's complex 1930s-era labor laws enshrine an idea of adversarial industry/labor relationships, requiring unions not only for workers but also for industry sectors. For airlines, that's SNEA, which handles salary negotiations, but for five years it's shared an address with ABEAR, the Brazilian Association of Airline Companies. The latter acts as an industry association would in the U.S., “with the mission to stimulate the habit of flying in Brazil,” and is working to influence legislation on issues such as consumer complaint handling, fuel taxes and baggage charges.

SNA, the National Aeronauts Union, signaled a new direction with its First National Aviation Congress last October in São Paulo, including not only aviation workers, but international air traffic controllers, the Federal Police's accident experts, the state police's head of aviation, well-known journalists, and most strikingly, airline representatives. For years, Brazil's major travel holidays always seemed to be accompanied by threats of a strike by the 7,000 pilots and flight attendants represented by SNA. At the Aviation Congress, a new attitude emerged: while the SNA firmly defends its members' interest, what benefits aviation overall, is good for the workers. And conflict with the airlines is the last rather than the first choice of action for guaranteeing workers' well-being.

SNA has a secretary of safety, and emergency legal representation for pilots, and works to minimize blame being assigned to the flight crew in accidents. Headquartered in Rio, it has a sub-headquarters across the street from the Congonhas passenger terminal, and eight regional offices, including oil-and-gas hub Macaé. Its site includes specific content for Brazilian airlines large and small, as well as for general aviation, air taxis, flight schools, and agricultural aviation. Aviation safety information is prominent.

IBA, the Brazilian Aviation Institute, is the brainchild of former ABAG chairman Franciso Lyra. One of Lyra's initiatives at ABAG was the Brazilian General Aviation Yearbook, and when a later ABAG administration dropped it, he had IBA call the same team to produce the Brazilian Civil Aviation Yearbook, with added information on airlines. Both the first and second editions, and reports produced by others, including the ABAG Yearbooks, are available on IBA's site, and further market studies are planned. IBA also issues weekly aviation newsletters. Lyra and IBA were catalysts for IBAS, the International Brazil Air Show, a fair at Rio de Janeiro`s Galeão airport billed as a Paris Air Show for South America. The show is projected to be biennual, alternating years with Chile's FIDAE. Despite unprecedented economic and political crises, the first IBAS took place last April, and although the aircraft static display area was reduced from ambitious initial plans, the opening session included the American Ambassador to Brazil, the Secretary-General of ICAO, and Brazilian cabinet-level officials. The event's five days included 177 speakers, and the next IBAS is planned for 2019, at a date not yet determined.

The activities of ABRAPHE, the Brazilian Helicopter Pilots' Association, include weekly newsletters, a glossy magazine, and a focus on helicopter safety. Besides participation in annual International Safety Seminars, this year APRAPHE held a series of safety seminars at Campo de Marte airport, centered around “strategically chosen themes based on recent occurrences and safety investigation final reports,” available (in Portuguese) on YouTube. ABRAPHE is a frequent participant at LABACE.

The Brazilian Confederation of Aerial Sports (CAB) regulates Olympic aviation sports in Brazil. In July, among the events under its aegis was the Brazilian Ballooning Championships. Starting the week before LABACE and continuing through the fair, the World Hang Gliding Championship is taking place in Brasilia. CAB president Marina Kalousdian told AIN, “Aerial sports go along with piloting. It breeds great pilots. Some start with sport flying and become professionals, and some professionals also fly for sport.” She says there are 20,000 aerial sports participants in Brazil, and noted that it involves a range of related aviation activities, “a glider means a tow plane and a pilot, too,” and Embraer's first production aircraft was a glider. The glider club at Embraer's base Sáo José dos Campos continues to be important to the sport.