How is LABACE 2019? Trying to ask ABAG chairman Leonardo Fiuza is difficult because as president of Textron Aviation representative TAM Aviação Executiva, his time is fully taken up with customers. “The fair has been very good in term of client traffic,” Fiuza said between hectic meetings. “The fair is taking place at a moment of transition for the country, which we hope will transform the second half into good results for all."
TAM AE has already sold more than 20 new aircraft in 2019, more than half the total for last year, and the second halves of past years have always seen more deals closed. “The clients are optimistic, and the market is optimistic,” Fiuza said. Besides increased aircraft sales, he sees big growth in MRO. But as to a shift caused by increasing fractional shares or by-the-seat charters, he said, “I, personally, don’t see it yet. We’re coming from difficult years for the country, and for the industry,” he concluded, before being called away to meet with yet another client.
LABACE 2019 has been a show of unusual juxtapositions. The most prominent is at Embraer’s stand, where the company’s first commercial product, a restored Bandeirante, sits side-by-side with its latest, the super-midsize Praetor 500, certified on the fair’s opening day.
The firm celebrates its 50th birthday as a deal to sell its regional jet division to Boeing moves towards conclusion by year-end. Embraer spokesman Daniel Bachmann pointed out, “In 2008 Embraer executive jets performed three operations a day, world-wide. In 2018, they made three an hour in Brazil alone.”
Several vendors, including TAM and Kodiak do Brasil, which has three of its rugged Quest Kodiak single-engine utility turboprops arriving in the coming months, said that Brazil's agribusiness sector has sustained the business aviation market through the recession, as dollar-priced commodities have continued to sell.
LABACE itself faces an uncertain future. The static display has always been at Congonhas Airport, a temporary luxury oasis of a billion dollars worth of the newest and latest in business aviation, nestled among the crumbling hangars of failed state airline VASP.
This year space was rented from a home improvements superstore that has leased the irreplaceable runway-level area from federal airport administrator Infraero. If the store construction moves forward by December—and the assumption is that it will—LABACE must move elsewhere. Plan A for Labace 2020 is Campo de Marte, also centrally located in São Paulo, but which the governor wishes to close, a threat made by politicians since 1958.
Congonhas is Plan B. There is no Plan C, although the military area of Guarulhos Airport will host the International Brazil Air Show in less than a month, and will test if that venue is viable for a show like LABACE.
This year’s LABACE, the second where ABAG delegated organization to MCI, had the ground plan flipped from last year’s, for considerations having to do with the ground lease. Overall, the arrangement seemed to contribute to better traffic flow. São Paulo’s weather, difficult to predict even hour to hour, contributed a literal chill to this year’s event, with a cold front moving in hours after the fair opened under excessive heat.
Bombardier was conspicuously absent from this year’s event, though MAGA’s Bombardier mobile service center, a modified bus with a hoist capable of removing a turbine, added a touch of mad scientist to the fair, as did logistics firm AGS’s wrapped helicopter suspended from a crane truck.
The shape of the future is uncertain, but the consensus of the local industry is that its size will be, like Brazil, large.