Aviation looks to Latin America

Wichita planemakers are turning toward Latin America next week to help sell business aircraft.

They will display products at the Seventh Annual Latin America Business Aviation Conference and Exhibition at the Congonhas Airport in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

The show runs Aug. 12-14 and typically attracts more than 13,000 people.

Latin American countries are poised to play an important part in the economic recuperation of general aviation, said aviation consultant Brian Foley.

Historically, Latin America has been the third-largest market for corporate aircraft and is where 12 percent of the world's 30,600 business jets and turboprops are based.

Jets outnumber turboprops by two-to-one in North America and Europe. But with its often challenging airport environment, utilitarian turboprops have a slight edge in Latin America, Foley said.

"What the world is watching now is market activity," he said. "And this is another area where Latin America will likely shine."

Europe's debt crisis and the lagging U.S. economy have made those markets sluggish, Foley said.

Latin America has been relatively insulated from those problems. And that should prove later to have been a bright spot in the overall recovery, he said.

Foley said his confidence in that region is partly based on its stock market performance — one of several indicators of general aviation market health.

The Sao Paulo stock exchange is off from its 2008 peak, but it's not off by as much as the U.S. Dow Jones industrial average or the European markets, he said.

"Healthy stock markets mean that corporate profits and personal portfolios are strengthening, providing not only the means but, more importantly, the confidence to purchase aircraft," Foley said.

Latin America — especially Brazil — is one of Cessna Aircraft's strongest markets, said spokesman Bob Stangarone.

"We see a lot of opportunity there going forward," Stangarone said.

Cessna will have seven or eight aircraft on display near its chalet at LABACE, including the Citation Mustang, Citation X and CJ4.

Latin America is also an important aviation market for Hawker Beechcraft.

The company has a renewed focus on the area and reorganized to focus more keenly on it, said Richard Emery, Hawker Beechcraft president of the Americas jet sales.

"We're excited about the potential in South America for this company," Emery said.

Brazil has been one of the stronger markets for the company this year, he said.

"They have rebounded much more quickly and much more strongly than most of the rest of the world has from this economic recession," Emery said.

Heading into the remainder of the year and into 2011, the company feels especially good about the potential in Brazil, Chile and Colombia for sales, he said.

Hawker Beechcraft will have a significant presence at LABACE with a chalet and the Hawker 4000, Hawker 900XP, Premier, King Air 350 and King Air G90GX and the Baron, he said.

The planes will then tour several cities in South America after the show concludes.