The tenth Latin American Business Aviation Conference and Exhibition (LABACE) opens here at Congonhas Airport in São Paulo today. Brazil’s civil aviation minister Moreira Franco and the commandant of the Brazilian air force, Air Brigadier Saito, are expected to be the guests of honor at the opening ceremony and “ribbon cutting,” to be held at midday. Brazil’s business aviation community certainly needs friends in high places as it continues to insist that its operational needs are not overlooked as the country develops its air transport infrastructure.
Organized by industry group Associação Brasilera de Aviação Geral (ABAG), the LABACE event is gearing up for 16,000 visitors over three days (today, tomorrow and Friday), with around 100 exhibitors in one main hangar and a static park filled with some 70 aircraft, from light piston singles and helicopters to intercontinental business jets. Overall, this year’s show is approximately the same size as the 2012 event. ABAG chairman Eduardo Marson, who is also CEO of Eurocopter subsidiary Helibras, said that although there are fewer exhibitors this year, those that have booked have taken more space.
Speaking on Monday afternoon at a pre-show press conference, Marson ran through some of the recent developments in Brazil’s business aviation industry, including challenges faced in protecting and promoting its access to airports and having a role in planning new infrastructure. A major priority is combating attempts to end fixed-wing traffic at Campo de Marte airport north of the São Paulo city center (Congonhas, where LABACE is being held, is south of the center).
“No airport is more [essential to] general aviation than Campo de Marte. The pen is [the minister’s] but we want to make sure he doesn’t sign anything without understanding its consequences,” said Marson.
ABAG has scored some successes. The day after a meeting with Moreira Franco over attempts by Infraero to put long-occupied hangar space out to public bid, the process was suspended.
Marson further underlined the need for general aviation to have access to major airports, preferably with separate terminals for business aviation. He also called for the sector to have a voice in planning new regional airports and to partipate in study groups, especially as GA uses far more airports than airlines do.
He referred to the good news last month that Brazil’s civil aviation authority, ANAC, had approved the first dedicated business aviation airport. Airlines have proposed the expulsion of business aviation from Congonhas to make way for expected continued commercial traffic growth, and this factor is a big part of the case for a dedicated business aviation gateway for São Paulo. (For the full story on the new Rodoanel airport and other planned airport privatizations, see page 10).
ABAG director general Ricardo Nogueira reflected that infrastructure should not stifle the country’s growth. “When the major talks of removing Campo de Marte, he sees only Campo de Marte [but] we see the aeronautical map, and for the number of operations, removing Campo de Marte is like removing Rio de Janeiro from the aeronautical map,” he told journalists. A glance at the airport activity tables in the ABAG 2013 report shows that Campo de Marte leads Brazilian airports in terms of number of movements, with 139,635 logged in 2012, up 16 percent over 2011, well ahead of Rio, which comes in second, with 92,521, and Congonhas, which is fourth, with 51,884. Much of the activity at Campo de Marte is accounted for by helicopter flights to and from the city’s financial district.
Marson concluded the press conference by stating that this year’s ABAG award will be presented, today, to Brigadier Saito, who stood up for general aviation in internal government meetings. “He was our advocate inside the government,” said Marson.