The 13th LABACE, the annual Latin American Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition opened at São Paulo Congonhas Airport just nine days after the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. While the Olympics provided some memorable moments (not least for the record-breaking Team GB), the Games also reflected the wider problems facing the host nation.
LABACE was held against the backdrop of an economy contracting at an alarming rate, a substantially weaker currency and political turmoil with the impeachment of President Dilma Roussef. Business traffic at Brazilian airports has fallen by an average of some 25% over the last two years. Local manufacturer Embraer has also announced a plan to cut its workforce and cut its delivery forecast for executive jets.
While visitor numbers to the show were similar to 2015 (at just under 10,000), the number of exhibitors was nearly 40% fewer and the static park was substantially smaller with just 43 aircraft on display. Setting aside the contraction, all the major manufacturers were exhibiting, with Dassault’s flagship Falcon 8X making its show debut. There were, however, very few orders announced despite Brazil’s position as the third largest business jet market in the world.
Leonardo Fiuza, chairman of show organiser ABAG, struck an optimistic note at the opening of the show by reminding visitors that “crisis always brings the opportunity for change” – it remains to be seen how quickly that change can come about.