LABACE returns to the world stage

LABACE, Latin America’s largest business aviation event, returns after three years to a changed world. The players have changed in both the commercial and business aviation worlds, and the pandemic has brought new customers to private aviation. As usual, the show, Art Sao Paulo Congonhas Airport, runs for three days (August 9-11) and doesn’t start until 12pm each day, then welcomes visitors for evening chats amidst static displays and exhibits until 8pm (and often later).

Legislation that will finally regulate equity ownership in Brazil has brought new firms offering fractional shares and new flyers to purchase them. More airports have transitioned from public to private management, others will soon follow suit, and Brazil’s first private business aviation airport, Catarina, has opened and is thriving. Global demand for agricultural goods has left the Brazilian agribusiness with hard currency in their pockets, as well as a constant need to reach distant fields or herds more easily. And eVTOL appears to be as close to a reality in Brazil as anywhere on Earth, not least where the Embraer spin-off Eve is a strong contender to be among the winners in the race to create a viable electric aircraft ecosystem , — but also as it was already the site of the first tests of the use of helicopters to reproduce future urban air mobility (UAM) operations.

With all these changes, LABACE returns to Congonhas, moving a few hundred meters from the historic (“old”) hangars in which it was traditionally located, with Covid precautions added to the rain forecasts, but with the same qualified visitors from all over the country and continent, wants to see old friends and new products.

Pandemic problems

The pandemic began with Gol and LATAM dominating the Brazilian air passenger market. Upstart Azul, locked out of established profitable markets by a slot system that favored the status quo, based its hub at the underutilized Virakopas Airport in Campinas, serving new and smaller destinations with a mixed fleet of Embraer, ATR and even Caravan aircraft. The pandemic found Azul with a fleet adapted to reduced demand, and it also destroyed the system that kept the airline from freezing.

In the midst of the pandemic, the country’s air routes were reduced to a skeleton carrying essential medical personnel and supplies. However, connecting delays between smaller routes made private flights the only option for some business travelers who absolutely needed to get to their destination.

A notable departure from Brazil’s business aviation scene is Icon, which has transitioned from a department store flight department to a deep-pocketed charter operator. The model of business aircraft he owned and not the others was capital intensive in a market where capital is expensive, and after a few years the owner decided to exit the market. Among those who acquired Icon’s significant assets was VOAR, the Guyanese operator that took over Icon’s Congonhas hanger and is exhibiting at LABACE after a years-long absence.

Amaro Aviation is a new firm with a good pedigree. When the Amaro family merged TAM with LATAM, Textron’s charter operations and dealership remained as TAM Aviação Executivo; Amaro Aviation is another descendant. The aviation expertise and vision of company president Francisco Lira, former chairman of ABAG (Brazilian General Aviation Association), are also behind the Catarina Executive Airport and the GATGRU Business Aviation Terminal at Guarulhos Airport. Lyra is still busy with other things moving from the drawing board to reality.

Fresh exhibits

TAM Aviação Executivo, Textron’s local representative, is once again LABACE’s largest exhibitor and is bringing a variety of Cessna, Bell and Beechcraft aircraft to the show. At Zhongdai Airport, TAM AE also has the country’s largest business aviation maintenance station.

Lider Aviation, which has a network of FBOs across the country, will once again display the HondaJet, which has undergone many upgrades since the very light jet appeared at the last LABACE three years ago. The current version of the HondaJet Elite S includes a full service galley, a private lavatory with an optional belted seat and the industry’s first Bongiovi sound system. In addition, the twinjet’s maximum takeoff weight has been increased by 200 pounds, which is enough for an additional 120 nm of range or an additional passenger during a typical mission.

The HondaJet is certified for single pilot operation and is often flown by the owner. Its cockpit includes customized Garmin G3000 avionics, and FAA DataComm and ACARS have been added to replace traditional voice commands with text messages where available. The aircraft’s avionics are also complemented by a newly introduced advanced power steering system.

Equity ownership has long been unregulated in Brazil, but many firms, notably Avantto, have found workarounds. Regulation brought security of the legal framework and more competitors. These include the recently launched Amaro Aviation, which focused on fractional shares, and Solojet, a long-time provider of business aviation services, and its Solojet Shares.

Airport activities

The last major business aviation event before the pandemic was the opening of Catarina Executive Airport near Sao Paulo, Brazil’s first private business aviation airport. Construction, conceived during the boom, continued during Brazil’s longest modern recession, as competitors withdrew and controller JHSF sold off some of its other businesses. The original plan suffered some curtailment, but not to the extent necessary, such as an 8,100-foot runway to accommodate the largest business jets with the longest range. This long-term planning has paid off. Elon Musk’s Gulfstream 650ER landed there in May, and 80 of the nation’s 749 business jets regularly use the airport.

Another location for business jets is the GATGRU Business Aviation Terminal at Guarulhos Airport. Like Catarina, it offers customs and immigration services for business jets, unlike most Brazilian airports where business jet passengers queue with everyone arriving from Florida.

An international business jet passenger facility at Congonhas has been dedicated but is not operational due to staffing issues. Long-standing plans to internationalize Sorocaba Airport, an important service and maintenance hub for business aviation, especially for Embraer, have stalled as the airport awaits privatization.

Antares Polo Aeronautica is located near Guyana, 113 nautical miles from Brazil and the geographical center of Brazil, in the heart of the Central West region and its high demand for general aviation, driven by agribusiness. Conceived as an aviation condominium, Antares has long been in the planning stages but is now developing the land for a 5,906-by-148-foot runway. Here at LABACE, Antares sells hangar lots.

Plans to privatize Congonhas faced protests from ABAG, as the request for proposals did not include provisions for business aviation, despite its heavy use not only for business travel but also for maintenance, as Lider’s main maintenance base. Campo de Marte, the city’s main general aviation airport, has been handed over to the federal government, which could help protect it from real estate interests eager to build on the flight path, and will also be privatized.

New technologies

While eVTOLs are getting a lot of hype in Silicon Valley, that also means good things like new technology and cutting-edge software, but there’s also an overabundance of glossy brochures and plenty of sizzle but little steak.

In recent decades, Embraer has certified more aircraft than any other company. His vision for urban air mobility is an ecosystem that includes heliports, designated routes, and three levels of air traffic control: one for commercial aircraft, another for tracking (though not controlling) drones, and a third for UAM. Embraer subsidiary Atech already supplies Brazil’s current air traffic control system and is working on drone traffic with government support, leaving only the third level.

Eve UAM’s proof-of-concept in Rio de Janeiro last year included 180 actual flights with real passengers on Helisul’s helicopters, which are exhibiting for the first time at LABACE 2022. Ultimately, EVTOL will have to make the difficult transition from the glossy brochure to the real world, and to At that time, Latin America was the closest to this breakthrough.

In addition to the launch gun, leading fractional operator Avantto has placed an order for 100 Eve eVTOLs. At a press event in May, Avantto hinted at an IPO to raise funds to operate eVTOLs in Brazilian cities and eventually other South American countries.

Last year’s Rio Eve trial included airports as primary destinations. Helisul took advantage of the devastation of Rio’s Galeán Airport due to the pandemic (international travel has been hit the hardest and for the longest time) to drop off passengers on the air side of the airport, who saw significant value in such a quick jump in curb-to-gate distance. A luxury terminal operator, AEPM Brasil, has been selected to build and operate the VIP terminal at Guarulhos International Airport. He has secured a lease on a site strategically located between the air and the ground, promising a future heliport with the same advantage.

https://www.ainonline.com/aviation-news/business-aviation/2022-08-04/labace-returns-world-stage LABACE returns to the world stage

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