LABACE 2017 opened with declarations of the resilience and recovery of the Brazilian business avation market. The star of show, the principal ribbon-cutter, was the founder of Embraer, Ozires Silva, still a visionary at 86 years of age. Speaking of Embraer just before the opening he told AIN, “The reality has exceeded the dream.”
Chairman of ABAG (the Brazilian Association for General Aviation), Leonardo Fiuza, also president of TAM Aviação Executiva, said in his keynote address that “Business aviation is tied to the country's economy; they go hand in hand, and that's never been more true than recently. There have been reverses, but the industry has shown resiliency, the ability to recover...Brazil is a country of continental dimensions, and thousands of cities count on general aviation, the only form of transportation that reaches everywhere.”
Addressing the surprise annoucement last week of the mayor's plan to close Campo de Marte airport in downtown São Paulo, the country's business GA airport, Fiuza recalled that ABAG has the largest representaion of general avation operators, and noted that "[the association] is not against changes, and does not radicalize positions,” and should be consulted. “ABAG is available and ready to contribute.” He called for transparency in decisions—and for exhibitors to have a sucessful LABACE.
Adjusting to the New Normal
Lietentant-general Paulo João Cury, head of logistics for the Air Force, noted, “We are not large purchasers of business aircraft, but we do have 700 aircraft,” and that translates into a lot of supplies, parts and other services from the aviation supply chain. Cury said that the Air Force's General Support Command is coming to São Paulo as part of an ongoing restructuring of the Air Force under Commandant Nivaldo Rossato, whom Cury respresented at LABACE. “It's a drastic process, including closing some air bases to save money, and to allow better use of aircraft.” The 4th Air Command, headquarted in São Paulo and in existence nearly since the creation of the air force, was shuttered Monday, proof that even traditionally conservative sectors are changing, showing resilience to adapt to new times and needs.
Federal Secretary of Civil Aviation Dario Rais Lopes delivered a presentation on infrastructure for general aviation in Brazil. At the height of the crisis, “we lost 18 percent of the market in one year,” he said, but “in the last two months, we're seeing a reversal of expectations in business aviation.” He started with gross numbers: Brazil has 1,820 private airports and 592 public ones and only 144 have regular passenger service. “Airports are a network, composed of three sub-networks,” which he described as 30 metropolitan airports, 190 regional airports of which 180 are existing and 10 are planned or in progress, and 383 local airports for a total of 603 overall.
He detailed specific improvements, executed, under way or planned. Some are simple, such as fences and runway lights. Others are new technology, like 34 automated weather stations thatwill provide Metar data, which the secretariat will purcharse and airspace control organization DECEA will maintain. Completing the Sorocaba airport control tower, where a bid must be put out for equipment, was promised for laterthis month.
On the privatization of airports, Lopes was by turns political and technical, affirming, “This government is not doing concessions to raise cash, it's not doing it to close [public airport authority] Infraero; it's trying to bring new technology... and benefits to the customer.” Returning to the idea of airports as networked, he showed a map of privatization in blocks; one for the state of Mato Grosso; another for the Northeast; and a third for airports running up the coast from the city of Rio de Janeiro. “Concession in blocks with bring synergy between feeders and central airports,” he said, promisting traffic and value.
The LABACE opening session always brings together major figures in Brazilian business avation, not only managers of major firms, but also the more rarely seen owners. As the meeting of “rainmakers” came to a close, the skies opened, with the first rain the city had seen in two months. The fair management had spent six days repairing 78 leaks in the roof of the landmark hangar that serves as the exhibition hall. The effectiveness of that prudence and planning will be tested over the three days of LABACE 2017. The country's and the industry's optimism have already been tested by economic recession and political chaos, but by all signs they have endured.