Brazil is still struggling against corruption and political disputes and flying under severe storms into 2019 after last October’s presidential election, won by the right-wing candidate after 15 years under a left-wing administration.
This troubled situation is directly affecting local and foreign investments, production in most all of its markets and sales of products and services. This includes the helicopter market.
The expected economic policies of the new administration could define the country’s direction for decades to come.
The Brazilian helicopter fleet remains stable among the top in the world, with 2,100 units for general aviation, but with reduced flight hour operations and services. In May, the number of units by regions were: 95 in the North, 187 in the Northeast, 176 in the center West, 1,346 in the Southeast and 281 in the South.
The largest fleets are located in Sao Paulo with 679 and Rio de Janeiro with 415 aircraft. Air transport suffered considerable decline due to the reduction in offshore operations mainly in Rio de Janeiro, directly affecting twin-engine turbine helicopters.
Representatives of various manufacturers and operators told R&WI at September’s Latin American Business Aviation and Convention (LABACE) in Sao Paulo that they were confident in Brazil’s economic recovery that would only be improved after the presidential election.
Some executives and companies sold their fleets and replaced them with chartered flights, cutting costs like maintenance and hangar fees.
Brazil’s offshore oil-and-gas market was hit by corruption scandals involving Petrobras, Brazil’s majority-state-owned oil company, including ties with the purchase of a refinery in Pasadena, California. With a new administration and business structure, the company expects to increase its oil-and-gas market services.
On the defense side, the Brazil-U.S. joint venture between Embraer and Boeing for the creation of a third company might result in some production of helicopters in the nation. Embraer had intended to do so years ago with a partnership with Leonardo, which was AgustaWestland at the time. Currently, the only production or assembly lines for helicopters in Brazil are those of Helibras, Brazil’s wholly owned subsidiary of Airbus Helicopters.
As a result of increasing helicopter use in all Brazilian armed forces, in June the Brazilian Navy commissioned in the U.K. the multi-purpose helicopter carrier PHM Atlântico (A140) with the capacity of 18 helicopters. It reached its homeport Arsenal da Marinha do Rio de Janeiro (AMRJ) in August.
Maintenance services by helicenters have considerable potential in the country since there are only four of them in Sao Paulo. Helipark, the most equipped one for all services, was in charge of maintenance for Bell 505 and Leonardo AW169 helicopters in Brazil.
On the events side, LABACE remains one of the most important business aviation events in Latin America with increasing presence of the helicopter sector. A total of 10 helicopters were on display — among them the Bell 505 Jet Ranger (with six units in use) and a 206L-4, Leonardo’s medium-twin VIP-configured AW169 (with two units in use) and the A109S, Helibras/Airbus AS350 B2, H145, AS350 B3, and Robinson R66 and R44. From more than 100 companies participating in the event, 20 of them were exhibiting a total of 47 aircraft.
A former pilot and long-running aeronautical event organizer with one eye aimed at the helicopter market launched the aviation show Expomarte, located at Campo de Marte airport in Sao Paulo — the Heli-Expo of Brazil. Although it has no connections with HAI’s Heli-Expo, he expects Expomarte to gain similar notoriety in the near future.
The Brazilian Association of Helicopter Pilots (ABRAPHE ) is providing safety meetings. Twelve meetings were held in 2018, and at least the same number is scheduled for 2019. These meetings are part of a program for 2019 under the name Rotores do Futuro (Rotors of the Future), which in partnership with manufacturers will provide a one-week program about safety and deeper knowledge for instructors and pilots of specific helicopters.
Forecasts for the helicopter market are positive following the country’s strong economic prospects and positive insights from the newly elected president. RWI