AIN contributing editor Solange Galante sat down with Flávio Píres, director general of Brazilian business aviation association ABAG, on the eve of the Latin American Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition (LABACE) in São Paulo, Brazil, to learn how the association has prepared for the event’s return and the prospects for business aviation in Brazil.
LABACE is returning on August 9 after three years without holding the fair due to the Covid-19 pandemic. During these more than a thousand days that have passed since the 2019 edition, what has ABAG prepared for this edition of the resumption?
We have prepared a super event to mark the occasion. We have a business aviation market experiencing a good moment all over the world, and it is no different here in Brazil, where we have business aviation aircraft movement numbers for 2022 already way above 2019. The segment's fleet is also growing rapidly, and maintenance providers are reporting a significant increase in the number of aircraft served, another indicator of the sector's dynamism.
How will Congonhas Airport handle the 2022 event?
This year we will have a better distribution of space and a better flow of people moving through the static display and internal exhibit areas. We are a business event and the priority is on meeting people, on the space for exchanging ideas, on chatting and negotiating.
What were the numbers from LABACE in 2019, and what are the goals for 2022?
Labace 2019 received 12,700 visitors, with 50 aircraft on display and more than 140 brands, including major players in the global aviation industry such as Dassault, Embraer, Gulfstream, Helibras, Leonardo, Líder Aviação, and TAM Aviaçao Executiva.
We have very high expectations from manufacturers and other companies in the sector around generating business this year. We hope that LABACE 2022 will be bigger than 2019, both because of the heating up of the market and because of new arrivals in the sector. For this edition, we already have 74 confirmed exhibitors, 95 brands, including companies such as Embraer, Dassault, Boeing, TAM Aviaçao Executiva, among others.
What are the main highlights of this year's event?
The highlights will be the aircraft that several manufacturers are bringing, the innovative products that will be presented to the market, and, of course, new niches [for Brazil] such as aircraft sharing.
What is the importance of LABACE in Brazilian executive aviation, with the economic problems, inflation, and the still-existing concerns about Covid-19 and other diseases in Brazil and in the world?
Business aviation is the engine of the economy, as it takes the entrepreneur throughout Brazil, especially in places where it is not possible to arrive by the regular air network. Just think that we have more than 5,500 cities throughout Brazil and commercial aviation connects just more than 160 of them. Without business aviation, it would not be possible to reach these regions quickly and safely.
Is the war in Ukraine affecting general aviation in Brazil?
Brazil is connected to the world and, of course, it is affected by the war. Fuel prices are on the rise all over the world and this harms business aviation as well as the global aviation industry, especially in supply chains.
Talk about the important role of general aviation during the last two years, when commercial aviation was at a standstill due to the pandemic.
With the decrease in the commercial air network, the importance of general aviation became evident for all of Brazil. People began to opt for private transport for travel for work, leisure, or responding to an emergency. In addition, it was general aviation that ensured the transport of the sick, took oxygen to the states furthest from treatment centers, and transported vaccines and medical supplies to the most distant places, to ensure everyone's immunization and safety.
Do you believe that the use of general aviation not only for the transport of medical supplies and health professionals but also so that entrepreneurs and executives from different segments could still do business, may have helped to change for the better people’s perception of its importance?
Unfortunately, there is a distorted view of the importance of general aviation due to the fact that the segment is little known. There is a certain prejudice in treating private and corporate aviation as “luxury” and “superfluous.” The term “private jets” is commonly used by the press with a pejorative tone and in a wrong way. More than 95 percent of the Brazilian fleet is made up of small airplanes and helicopters, with prices sometimes lower than those of automobiles and leisure maritime vessels.
But these aircraft fulfill important functions not only to complement the service offered by large airlines but also to, as stated above, act in health support functions, in support of essential government activities, in specialized air services, in public security and firefighter activities, in civil defense, in supporting and monitoring the health of indigenous and small communities locations, and in urgent and emergency transport in air ambulances, where every minute counts. In large companies, there is a clear recognition of the use of the aircraft as a work tool and as leverage for their businesses, insofar as it makes possible transportation with speed, security, and privacy. ABAG still has a big challenge in properly communicating this issue. It is essential that the press is aware of this little-publicized side of our activities.