Temperatures were down, spirits up, and glasses raised as LABACE 2022 roared to a close last night. “The best ever,” was Leonardo Fiuza’s verdict, speaking as both chairman of organizer ABAG and president of TAM Aviação Executiva, which sold eight aircraft during the show.
“Ao sabor do vento”—translation in English: "tasting the wind"—said ABAG CEO Flávio Pires. He was seeking to capture both the convention's most dramatic moment, the gust that lifted the roof off Dassault’s chalet on Wednesday, and the broader moment, the fair winds that propelled serious buyers and serious business to the first LABACE in three years.
The expo’s third night began with adjustments made by the organizers: aircraft had to move out on schedule, but booths could remain open as late as they wanted to recover some of Wednesday’s lost time. Cold weather was joined by rain in the afternoon, which cleared up as night fell and clouds opened for a full moon to shine down on jets glittering with water droplets.
A rope across the front of the Embraer stand, with polite gatekeepers enforcing a “scheduled visitors only” sign was explained by a spokesman as reflecting both kinds of wind. As a neighbor to the shuttered Dassault booth and the farthest from the exit, Embraer wanted to restrict the number of people in the booth in case the expo had to be cleared again. But the number of serious customers vying for attention, even with delivery dates pushed out to 2024, was such that Embraer had to restrict its normal welcome of the general public.
Márcia’s Catering, the country’s top aviation caterer, was celebrating not only 30 years but “260,000 hours of continuous operation”—its kitchen has never closed. An old-fashioned ice-cream tricycle was to circulate through the walkways distributing spumante during the fair’s closing hours, but the trip down memory lane had to stop in front of TAM AE’s chalet since there were too many people on the walkways as the fair refused to wind down.
The display pavilions were packed as the 8 p.m. closing time came and went. Puffy jackets were the predominant attire, while hands clutched beer steins, wine glasses, caipirinha glasses, and, repeatedly, old friends.
Unexpected winds took the roof off the Dassault chalet on Wednesday. That it struck no one and that damage to nearby aircraft seems to have been somewhere between scratched paint and hangar rash, was luck. The orderly evacuation of the fair, without panic, was the result of preparation.
AIN spoke with Maria Alzenir Silva, who received her diploma as a security guard two weeks ago and for whom LABACE was her first job. Her training had included first aid and fire brigade training, and evacuation of the fair was a scenario for which they’d trained. “We had to stay calm," she said. "If we panicked, that would spread to the crowd.”
On the other end of the hierarchy, Congonhas Airport superintendent Carlos Haroldo Novak explained that when the expo's organization started, a Whatsapp group for safety and security planning was created. That group included ABAG and Infraero organizers, and the planning paid off Wednesday evening during the evacuation.
The evacuation was rapid and firm. Both Lider and TAM AE had parties planned for Wednesday evening, and caterers were barred from retrieving the evening’s prepared delicacies. Lider improvised, moving its celebration to the VIP lounge of its FBO across the airport, bringing out wines, cheeses, and a freezer chest of high-end popsicles from Oggi, part of a partnership deal. TAM AE’s chalet was one of the livelier ones Thursday night, but with the aircraft totems laying down, weighted with sandbags.
TAM had its show sales numbers ready, or almost ready, Thursday evening: two King Air 360s, one Grand Caravan EX, one used King Air C90GTx, and a Baron G58, as well as three Bell 505 helicopters. One of the Bells added to the total at the last minute.
Impressions of the fair from other exhibitors were overwhelmingly positive, rather than the usual lukewarm phrases such as “we maintained an institutional presence.” Transactions were closed and new business was begun.
Part of this, of course, is due to the moment. Campo de Marte’s premier helicopter salesman, Gualter Pizzi, who has set up what looked like a used-helicopter lot to past fairs, arrived at LABACE 2022 with a single aircraft and confided that he wasn’t sure up to the last minute if he would have even that. “I’m in business to sell," he said, "and if I’d sold it before the fair, I would have had nothing to show.” His deal to represent Kopter, announced three years ago at LABACE 2019, has morphed into a license to sell new Leonardo helicopters (Leonardo purchased Kopter in 2020).
LABACE 2019 took place as Brazil was coming out of its deepest modern recession, and LABACE 2022 after the three-year gap as a result of the pandemic. As the expo carried on into the night on Thursday, this AIN reporter sipped spumante under the moon with a group that included ex-ABAG president Francisco Lyra, whose business aviation-focused Catarina Airport has proven his vision and who anticipates the publication of the official approval of his next project, the University of the Air; Congonhas Airport superintendent Novak, unflappable as always as he awaits his airport being auctioned next week; and ABAG’s Pires, whose team was new to organizing fairs and had met the unexpected and overcome it. The conversation was not about past victories or challenges, but of hope and the future.