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Sometimes the business aviation market goes through a worldwide crisis — it is difficult to find a region or country that has not suffered from momentary economic or political instability. However, if there is a category that ends up suffering less in developing countries such as Brazil, it is that of the turboprop aircraft segment.
According to data from GAMA (the General Aviation Manufacturers Association), turboprop orders grew 5.2% worldwide in 2018 compared to the previous year, above the piston aircraft market (5%) and executive jets (3.8%).
This trend in growth of turboprop aircraft also holds true in Brazil. According to the latest version of the Brazilian Yearbook of Civil Aviation, the fleet of turboprops in the aviation sector grew 3% between May 2018 and December 2017 — the fastest growing fleet category in the country. This growth is mainly due to the entry of aircraft to the Central-west region.
The fleet of turboprops in Brazil is composed mainly of twin-engine aircraft. In 2018, however, the primary factor responsible for the growth of the turboprop fleet was the incorporation of single-engine aircraft, which alone corresponded to a growth rate of 14%.
Currently, according to the yearbook, the Brazilian general aviation fleet has 7,800 active aircraft and helicopters. Of these, 1,132 are turboprops and only 769 are jets, distributed among air taxis, cargo, and aeromedical services, private operators, flight instruction, and specialized air service providers.
Brazil features several overlapping characteristics conducive to the operation of turboprops. Most of the approximately 3,000 airfields are short (about 1,000 meters) with unpaved runways. Due to operational versatility, this type of aircraft finds in the country an almost “natural habitat”.
Brazil’s continental dimensions ensure that almost 99% of all flights in general aviation are domestic, which favors the use of smaller range aircraft. Consequently, the distances to other countries is greater than in mature markets, such as in Europe. Another contributor is Brazil’s lower purchasing power than that of developed countries. With these factors, even in regional aviation, turboprops are often used.
Last year, general aviation was responsible for 600,000 landing and takeoff operations in the country. However, 88% of all flights in this segment were within a radius of 1,000 km around São Paulo. This is mainly due to the fact that the South, Southeast and Central-west regions account for almost 85% of the national GDP (Gross Domestic Product). In short: in most cases you don’t need a jet plane to fly in Brazil.
All this meets another important factor: agribusiness growth in the country that today represents 25% of national GDP. Generally agro-entrepreneurs are situated in regions of rare access to regular airlines. In addition, airstrips are most often not able to receive jet aircraft.
Currently, the most common turboprop aircraft among Brazilian operators is King Air. The ease of operating on short, unpaved runways coupled with the operating cost (less than a jet) easily win over buyers. Not to mention important destinations served by Flapper’s partner fleet, such as Angra dos Reis, Paraty, or Jacarepaguá (Rio de Janeiro) have airports with these characteristics, which virtually makes it impossible to operate jet aircraft.
Through the Flapper app, we can check that a charter King Air flight costs only R $ 16 / km, while the same flight in a small jet runs between R $ 19 and R $ 26. However, the company remains firmly active in both segments, fostering new markets in a country where only 140 of the 5,568 cities are served by regular commercial aviation. There’s plenty of room to grow.