The business aviation market is going through a phase of record high growth worldwide, and those who work in the sector are optimistic. Such was the tone of the remarks made by several professionals in the sector during the 4th Latin American Business Aviation Conference and Exhibition (Labace), which just took place at the Congonhas Airport, in the southeastern Brazilian city of São Paulo.
"There is no question that business aviation is growing faster than in any other time in history," said the director general at the International Business Aviation Council (Ibac), Donald Spruston.
In his assessment, this is happening due to several factors, such as the seeking of greater competitiveness by corporations, including time-saving in transporting their executives; the relocation of company headquarters to places farther removed from large centers, which also demands aircraft for employees to commute; an increased supply of business jets of intercontinental reach to cater to the a global economy; the launch of small aircraft to enable smaller companies to start using this type of service; and the growing demand in countries of large territorial extension, such as Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Canada, Australia, and Mexico.
"This is an exciting time of growth in Brazil, the United States and the world, because the sector is very important for companies that wish to be competitive in the global world, allowing for them to reach markets and locations that regular airlines do not cater to," said the president at the United States National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), Edward Bolen.
In the assessment of Rui Thomaz de Aquino, president at the Brazilian Association of General Aviation (Abag), which organizes the Labace in partnership with the NBAA, one of the major driving forces in the industry has been a generalized quest of companies for saving time.
The use of business aircraft eliminates the need for arriving early at the airport, waiting in lines for check-in and security checks, delays, connections and, besides, a small jet can land in places that commercial airplanes cannot reach.
To give an idea, Aquino said that, out of the 5,563 Brazilian municipalities, only 134 are served by regular airlines, whereas Brazil has nearly 2,500 aerodromes, i.e., any location where an aircraft may land, be it private runways, military bases, aeroclubs, or commercial airports.
"In a country of continental dimensions like Brazil, where the highway network is still sparse, business aviation is indispensable for companies to be able to seek new businesses," said Aquino, to whom the economic decentralization in the country, with the creation of production hubs in different regions, has leveraged the demand.
And demand and supply walk hand in hand. According to Aquino, in 1996 the industry manufactured a total of 1,437 business aircraft of 69 different models. In 2006 the total was 4,042, with 96 models. Besides the launch of new aircraft, new companies have entered the sector during the period, such as Embraer and Cirrus, which are exhibiting at Labace.
Edward Bolen also said that a business airplane is amenable to many different types of ownership, ranging from millionaires who own a private airplane to jointly-owned aircraft, companies that use the airplane to transport executives, and air taxi companies.
Since the phenomenon is a global one, it is also taking place in the Middle East. "There is a new association, the Middle East Business Aviation Association (MEBAA), based in Dubai, which represents the industry in the region, and has informed us that the sector is growing," said Donald Spruston.
According to him, the liquidity that exists currently in the region favors a strong performance in business aviation. Spruston also said that events turned to the sector in the Middle East have been very successful. "All signs indicate that the sector is growing in the region," he claimed.
Embraer, for example, forecasts that the Middle East is one of the regions of the world that will have an increasingly important position in the business aviation industry. The segment is betting on strong performances by various emerging markets, including China, India, Russia, and Latin America.
To Bolen, the United States market, the world's largest, will continue to grow, but its share of the global total is decreasing. "In the past, the United States once owned 75% to 80% of the world's business airplanes, and now that share is 50% to 60%," he said, also highlighting opportunities in Europe.
Things are no different in Brazil. According to José Eduardo Brandão, commercial director at the Ocean Air air taxi company, which is the Brazilian representative of brands such as the Canadian Bombardier, the Swiss Pilatus and the Italian helicopter maker AgustaWestland, the market is heated.
According to the executive, 90% of the Brazilian market is comprised of companies that use the aircraft for transporting executives. "It is a professionally-oriented use, companies use executive airplanes as a complement to regular air transport. They combine the two modes," he claimed.
Labace, which ended yesterday, August 11, counted this year on 70 exhibitors and 33 aircraft on display. These included models by, among others, Embraer, Dassault, Gulfstream, Cessna, Bombardier, Pilatus, Eurocopter (Helibras), Agusta, Cirrus, and Bell Helicopters.
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