The low-cost carrier business model is rapidly growing in Latin America and includes carriers such as Viva Air, which committed to the purchase of 50 A320 Family aircraft in late 2017, and Mexico’s VivaAerobus – which in 2013 made the then-largest purchase by a Mexican airline of 52 single-aisle A320 Family aircraft. Mexico’s Volaris and Chile’s JetSMART were part of Airbus’ all-time record acquisition announcement in 2017 as they were among the four airlines covered by a Memorandum of Understanding with Indigo Partners for the combined total purchase of 430 Airbus A320 Family airliners.
With the opening of Airbus training and maintenance centres in Mexico, Brazil and Argentina, Airbus is responding to its customers’ demand for training while directly supporting their growth and productivity.
In the civil sector, several rotorcraft models are used in public service and commercial activities such as medical emergency transport, airborne law enforcement, transport missions for the energy industry, and private and corporate aviation.
Operated throughout Latin America is the single-engine H125 light utility helicopter: famed for its performance in ‘high and hot’ conditions, this rotorcraft is commonly used for airborne law enforcement and diverse aerial work missions, as well as for private business aviation. The light twin-engine H145 performs police missions including support to populations affected by natural disasters and gives support to the energy/mining industry. The new super-medium H175 has been successfully deployed in the Gulf of Mexico serving the oil and gas industry.
Airbus has launched several industrial cooperation programs that have greatly contributed to the development of the region’s aviation industry. Brazil – home to a state-of-the-art engineering and design centre and final assembly lines for H125 and H225 rotorcraft – and Mexico – with a new 13,000-square metre industrial facility producing aeronautical metallic components – are good examples of the company’s active role in industrial cooperation and transfer of technology in the region.
In addition to the in-house support and services offer provided by its subsidiaries, Airbus has created an accredited network of helicopter maintenance centres in several Latin American countries, including Argentina, Guatemala, Panama and Peru. Airbus also offers initial training for technicians and pilots.
With a contract signed in the late 1970s, Chile was one of the first countries to place an order with the original CASA company – forerunner to Airbus – with the country’s orders during this long-term relationship covering the C212, CN235 and C295.
In the homeland security sector, Airbus played a key role in guaranteeing public safety during the 2014 FIFA World Cup sports competition in Brazil through a secure mobile radio communication system for professional users.
Airbus builds satellites systems that keep Latin America connected and provide space-eye views on the region for both civil and military applications.
In the Earth observation sector is PerúSAT-1 – a 430 kg.-class satellite built by Airbus for the Peruvian CONIDA space agency and delivered in a record time of less than two years. Equipped with a submetric
optical imager also designed and developed by Airbus, the satellite was developed for a wide range of applications ranging from homeland security and border monitoring to disaster management and environmental protection. The most powerful Earth observation satellite operated from Latin America, PerúSAT-1 is based on Airbus’ AstroBus-S platform, the latest generation of high-end satellites. The satellite was lofted in September 2016 by a light-lift Vega launcher operated by Arianespace.
Airbus also built the first Earth observation system ever launched for Latin America, the Chilean satellite system FaSat Charlie (Sistema Satelital para Observación de la Tierra, or SSOT). Orbited in late 2011, the satellite has exceeded its expected five-year functional life.
An example of Airbus relay platforms at the service of Latin America is SKY Brasil-1 (also known as SKYB-1), based on the company’s Eurostar E3000 platform. This high-definition television (HDTV) broadcast satellite is used by the DIRECTV Latin America subsidiary of AT&T/DIRECTTV, and offers coverage over Brazil. SKY Brasil-1 was orbited in February 2017 by a heavy-lift Ariane 5 launcher operated by Arianespace – a subsidiary of ArianeGroup, the joint venture of Airbus and Safran.
Another relay platform is SES-10, produced by Airbus for Luxembourg-based satellite operator SES. Launched in 2017, this Eurostar E3000-based spacecraft is used by SES to offer replacement and additional capacity for direct-to-home TV broadcasting, enterprise and mobility services to Central America and South America, Mexico and the Caribbean.
Airbus’ approach to evolve local capabilities in the regions where it does business is illustrated by the PerúSAT-1 imaging satellite, which is part of comprehensive programme that also includes an Airbus-built ground control and image reception and processing segment in the Peruvian National Centre for Satellite Imagery Operation (CNOIS). One of the project’s goals is to develop Peru’s competence in space technologies, satellite operation and appropriate imaging applications, for which Airbus is supplying images from its fleet of optical and radar satellites.
More than 80 Peruvian specialists took part in a technology transfer program with Airbus at its Toulouse, France facilities, and in Lima. This gave Peru access to the necessary knowledge and expertise for successful independent operation and maintenance of the PerúSAT-1 systems.
With the goal of delivering humanitarian aid after a devastating natural disaster, the Airbus Foundation and its customers regularly join forces to provide much-needed humanitarian support.
After the devastating 2017 earthquake in Mexico, the Airbus Foundation partnered with Mexican airlines Volaris and Interjet to deliver more than nine tonnes of supplies that included clothes, blankets, tents, tarps, lanterns and medical supplies.
LATAM and Azul Brazilian Airlines partnered with the Foundation in a first-of-its kind collaboration to help the victims of devastating Chilean forest fires by transporting relief supplies, and Avianca has partnered with the Foundation to help victims of mudslides in Colombia.
Goodwill flights are not the only way the Airbus Foundation provides support to nations impacted by natural disasters. After the 2017 earthquake in Mexico, the Foundation partnered with air ambulance service Angel Flight to provide helicopter emergency transport with two light helicopters of the Ecureuil family – an AS355 and an H130 – that were made available to hospitals for the transfer of the critically injured, as well as transportation of food and medicine after the quake rendered many roads impassable. In addition, Airbus Earth-observation satellite images were made available to Foundation partners through a dedicated portal to help assess damage.
Economic indicators remain strong across Latin America and the Caribbean. With well-established democracies in place, increasing urbanisation and rapidly improving infrastructure, the region’s economy is predicted to grow above the world average in the coming decades
The in-service fleet of commercial aircraft in Latin America and the Caribbean is expected to more than double in the next 20 years, resulting in a need for nearly 50,000 new pilots and more than 53,000 new maintenance engineers. By 2036, the region’s current regional mega cities of Bogotá, Buenos Aires, Lima, Mexico City, Santiago and São Paulo will be joined by Cancún, Panama City, and Rio de Janeiro. Together, these nine megacities will account for some 150,000 long-haul passengers daily.
Airbus’ long-term prospects for the region are optimistic as the helicopter fleet is estimated to grow 65 percent over the next 20 years resulting in the need of 2,000 new helicopters. The energy sector as well as the public services and the private transport segments are bound to be particularly dynamic with the H125, H145, H215 and H225 being very well positioned due to their excellent performance in hot and high environments and optimized operational costs. The new H160, which will enter into service next year, is already attracting interest from private customers all over the region thanks to its highly stylized design and state of the art technology.