Eye on Latin America

By Claudio Agostini, Latin American Bureau Chief | April 1, 2005
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Pursuing the Promises of Brazil

From international economic instabilities to occasional lack of fuel in some critical areas in Brazil, the variables affecting development of its helicopter market can be daunting in number as well as potential severity. But some positive signs, including the changing perception of the helicopter from "luxury symbol" to "effective tool," are promising for local market development and trends for the coming years.

These shifts may not foretell a time of "a helicopter in every garage." But they may represent many helicopters being registered and operated in each and every one of Brazil's 26 states.


Of the nation's 26 states and the Federal District of Brasilia, the three states of S㯠Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais occupy roughly 13 percent of Brazil's territory, account for 48 percent of its population and represent 56 percent of the nation's gross domestic product. In the helicopter market, they represent 76 percent of Brazil's total fleet. The remaining 24 percent is spread out among 22 states and the Federal District. Sixteen Brazilian states have fewer than 10 helicopters registered in them. Four have none registered at all.

Brazil's economy is vulnerable to international problems like instability in other Latin American nations, increases in fuel prices and variations in the value of the U.S. dollar. Changes in the last decade have put the country on a more solid footing for economic stability and growth, however, and the expansion and development of new business activities are creating clusters of growth in new areas. These promise to fuel Brazil's economic expansion for 5-10 years.

The national helicopter market, of course, tends to follow national economic trends and developments, and that market is gradually moving toward maturity. Helping this along is the evolving perception of helicopters, with more people appreciating their role as effective, even indispensable tools in many business activities and public services.

With a total fleet of 10,810 aircraft (9,835 fixed-wing and 975 rotary-wing), Brazil has dozens of private aeronautical events. Most include helicopters only as an added public attraction, and few take a professional approach to our business.

Only two are professionally dedicated to the helicopter business: Helitech Latin America and the Latin American Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition. Both of these have overseas origins, with their founders extending their efforts into the "tropical" region of Latin America. Helitech Latin America is an outgrowth of the all-helicopter Helitech trade show held biennially in Duxford, England. LABACE was born of the U.S. National Business Aviation Assn.'s efforts to expand its annual trade show outside the United States.

Locally organized events include ExpoAeroBrasil, the Broa Fly-in, the Brazil Helicopter Expedition and Contaero (a strong agricultural exhibition held in Botucatu city, 150 mi. from S㯠Paulo City, in a country where the use of helicopters for these applications was nearly forgotten).

However, like its English counterpart, Helitech Latin America is the only event focused entirely on helicopters. First held in S㯠Paulo in 2002, the show was also planned as a biennial event. However, when the event's organizers were taken over by Reed Exhibitions last year, it was postponed from 2004 to be combined with Reed's Latin America Aero & Defense (LAAD), which convenes April 26-29 in Rio de Janiero. This second edition of Helitech Latin America seems to have a new and wider focus. Whereas the S㯠Paulo show prioritized executive/corporate operations, this year's event is more focused on offshore, military/parapublic, utility and services sectors. Taking into consideration the strong international presence that past LAADs attracted to Rio de Janeiro, with 185 delegates from 37 countries, the defense environment is well favored.

"The current format for the event seems to be extremely adequate to the new location and regional environment, without overlooking the whole country's helicopter market," said Juan Pablo De Vera, Reed Exhibition Brazil's general director. "The Rio region, for example, is responsible for roughly 85 percent of country's helicopter offshore operations. We are quite confident that Helitech Latin America, combined with LAAD and sharing space with more than 330 exhibitors from 42 countries, will grow to be a landmark for the helicopter market on the continent."

To attend to S㯠Paulo's huge executive/corporate market needs and that city's strong appeal as a Latin American conference site, Reed is planning a Latin America Helicopter Conference and Executive Exhibit event for 2006. This new event might be in partnership with ABRAPHE--the Brazilian Helicopter Pilots Assn.

LABACE, being held March 31-April 2 in S㯠Paulo, is right where it should be. More than 40 percent of Brazil's civil aviation is based in and around the city. Organized by the ABAG - Associa磯 Brasileira de Avia磯 Geral and the NBAA, "the event has the same NBAA business profile, and we have increased to 120 the number of exhibitors for this edition," Adalberto Febeliano, ABAG's executive vice president, told Rotor & Wing. "Although most of them are related to fixed-wing, we are improving our focus on corporate and executive/VIP helicopters, mainly twin engines, that are increasing their presence at the event every year."

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