Latin America’s bizav show

Single-engined turboprops such as the Pilatus PC-12 have proved popular in Brazil and Latin America.

Single-engined turboprops such as the Pilatus PC-12 have proved popular in Brazil and Latin America.

Business aircraft OEMs will be hoping to attract new customers as the 13th annual Latin American Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition opens in São Paulo today.

LABACE will take place from August 30 till September 1 at Sao Paulo’s Conghonas International (CGH). This is a little later than usual in order to avoid a clash with the Rio Summer Olympics which has brought increased business aviation traffic not only to Rio de Janeiro but also to Belo Horizonte, Brasilia, Salvador and São Paulo. CGHis the principal general aviation airport located in the southern part of the city, hosting a large part of São Paulo’s business aviation activity and the exhibition will see the usual lineup of aircraft manufacturers and business aviation suppliers including operators, MROs, outfitters, equipment providers and airport developers in a main exhibit hall and, outside, on the airport’s crowded ramp. There will be a full range of business aircraft on display from OEMs including Bombardier, Embraer, Gulfstream, Pilatus and Textron Aviation.

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LABACE, which is Latin America’s largest business aviation event,  is organised by the Brazilian Association for General Aviation (ABAG) which is looking to strengthen its local campaign to promote “General Aviation as a National Asset”. ABAG wants to raise awareness of General Aviation’s important role in Brazil’s growth, despite the recent ups and downs of the Brazilian economy, with access to more than 3,500 airfields and the ability to provide unrivaled access to the most remote regions of the country. However, the exhibition is a truly trans-continental affair and will attract visitors from the whole of Latin America from Mexico to Argentina.

The exhibition will be open each day from noon until 8PM. On the Wednesday and Thursday mornings there will be a program of seminars and discussion forums including Garmin’s presentation on the latest avionics upgrades for business aircraft and helicopters; a session covering the latest evolution for Brazilian civil aircraft registry; and an aeromedical transport seminar. Once again, the issues of airport access in Latin America will be high on the agenda as well.

Across South America, the large distances make air transport essential, but the advent of large carriers such as LATAM, GOL, Azul and Avianca have increasingly provided good connections between major hubs. However, many important cities have limited airline services, which opens up a significant need for private or charter aircraft. The whole region has a population of just over 3,800 civil business jets and turboprops, plus a further 300-odd military aircraft, with around a third of these in Central America. The large users are Brazil with 795 jets and 719 turboprops and Mexico, with 766 and 291, respectively, followed by Venezuela and Argentina. The business aircraft fleet has grown only slightly over the past couple of years with just a trickle of new business jets delivered. Additionally, there is also little change in the turboprop sector, although the single-engine models such as the PC-12, Piper Meridian and Daher TBM remain popular. Even economically-challenged Brazil has received a number of new aircraft, notably the TBM 900, nine of which had been delivered by April this year. Countries such as Paraguay, Uruguay and Peru have quite small numbers of turbine aircraft and much of their domestic activity is still served by older piston twins such as the Piper Navajo and Cessna 421. One effect of the general economic malaise in Latin America has been a trend for owners to sell their aircraft to the United States and there are several business jets which have moved  north to cash in on the favorable exchange rate.

As the only manufacturer of large general aviation aircraft in South America, Brazil’s Embraer has a small sales advantage. Deliveries were made in the last year to Mexico and Brazil, including two Legacy 500s. Embraer recently delivered its 1,000th business jet and also announced a sale of eight Legacy 500s, eight Phenom 300s and seven Phenom 100Es, with an estimated value of over $260 million to Mexican charter provider Across. Very sensibly, Embraer has moved the final assembly and marketing of the majority of its business jets to Melbourne, FL, where it broke ground on a new facility in 2008 and now builds four models from major assemblies shipped in from Brazil. The Phenom 100 and 300 were first, followed by a recent expansion of the plant which has seen the Legacy 450 and 500 also completed in the US. According to Marco Tulio Pellegrini, CEO of Embraer Executive Jets, “the move to Melbourne has allowed us to position ourselves close to our major customer base – and reduces our dollar exposure. Given a 4% fall in the GDP of Brazil, this has been a prudent development for us”.