Airbus’ story in Brazil began in 1978 with the creation of Helibras – the result of a historic partnership between Airbus Helicopters and the State of Minas Gerais in the southeast of the country. With 500 employees, Helibras is Brazil’s only helicopter manufacturer, and it leads the market with more than 665 rotorcraft delivered.
For the airline sector, Brazil is Latin America’s largest commercial aircraft market and Brazilian carriers operate more Airbus aircraft than any other country in the region; while a fleet of Airbus C295 multi-role airlifters also operates in the country, serving on tactical and search and rescue missions.
At the end of March 2019, Azul Brazilian Airlines operated 33 Airbus aircraft. Azul initiated international routes with a fleet of five leased A330-200s and is expected to integrate more widebodies into its Airbus fleet. The carrier also has selected “Services by Airbus” to provide Flight Hour Services (FHS) component support to secure best-in-class services for its daily fleet operations. This FHS contract, the first in Latin America, provides an extensive scope of A320 line-replaceable units, guaranteed spare parts availability through pool access service, on-site stock at the customer’s main base and selected outstations, as well as repair service.
Airbus has long provided pilot training – primarily from its Miami-based training centre in the United States – but increasing pilot demand motivated the company to open the Airbus Brazil Training Centre (ABTC) in 2016. Designed to offer A320 Family training to customers across the region, ABTC is located at UniAzul – Azul’s university and training centre near Viracopos International Airport in Campinas, São Paulo. Featuring a full-suite of A320 pilot training equipment – including one A320 Family Full Flight Simulator and an Airbus Pilot Trainer – the ABTC has been training Azul pilots since November 2016 as part of Azul’s “Training by Airbus” agreement that includes more than 70,000 flight training hours. Within the framework of the partnership, UniAzul is the first Airbus Approved Training Organisation (ATO) in all of South America.
From the Airbus product line of corporate aircraft, the Brazilian Air Force operates an ACJ319 Airbus Corporate Jet.
Airbus is a shareholder in ATR, a Franco-Italian aircraft manufacturer that has been present in Brazil since 1993 when it sold its first ATR 42 aircraft in the country. Some 45 ATR aircraft were flying in Brazil as of the beginning of 2019, operated by customers that include Azul, OMNI taxi aéreo, MAP, Passaredo, Total Airlines and Imetame.
In the past 15 years, Brazil’s in-service fleet of Airbus jetliners has increased by 260% – reflecting the nation’s development and transformation into a major player in the global economy. The company holds a dominant market share in the country, with Airbus aircraft representing more than half of all passenger airplanes in service.
LATAM Airlines Group, formed from the 2012 merger between Chile’s LAN Airlines and Brazil’s TAM Airlines, is among the world’s largest Airbus customers – as well as Airbus’ largest customer for commercial aircraft in Brazil. In 2016, LATAM began to operate the first of its 25 A350 XWB aircraft on order, becoming the initial airline in the Americas to fly this highly-efficient widebody airliner. Also in 2016, the airline group received the Americas’ first A320neo. As of March 2019, LATAM Airlines Group and LATAM Airlines Brazil together have placed orders for more than 360 Airbus aircraft.
Synergy Aerospace Corp. became an Airbus customer in 2007 with its order for 10 A350 XWB widebody jetliners. The airline group, which owns Avianca Brasil, in addition to being Avianca’s main shareholder, also signed a purchase agreement for 62 A320neo Family aircraft. Avianca Brasil joined the Airbus community of operators in 2010, and as of March 2019 was operating more than 50 aircraft of the A320, A320neo and A330 Families – as well as one A330 Freighter, a derivative of the widebody A330 passenger airliner.
Since 1978, Airbus’ Helibras subsidiary – the only manufacturer of turbine helicopters in all of Latin America – has grown to become the market leader in Brazil with a workforce of roughly 500 and a 50% share of the country’s turbine helicopter market as of 2018. The company is the result of a partnership between Airbus Helicopters Division, the State of Minas Gerais’ public investment firm Codemig Participações S.A. (CODEPAR), and Aerofoto Cruzeiro Company.
Approximately 665 Airbus rotorcraft are in operation in the country, ranging from the light single-engine Ecureuil family to the heavy Super Puma.
Roughly 54% of these are utilised by the Brazilian civil market (for executive, commercial as well as oil and gas company use), 23% are operated by the government sector and a further 23% serve the country’s armed forces.
Helibras’ state-of-the-art manufacturing plant is located in Itajubá, Minas Gerais and includes the production and final assembly lines of the single-engine H125 light helicopter – famed for its performance in high and hot conditions – and the H225, the 11-tonne-category twin-turbine rotorcraft of the Super Puma family.
Airbus won an important contract to supply 50 H225M helicopters to the Brazilian Armed Forces, which already are in service within its three divisions. Deliveries are planned through 2019 and include a naval combat version of the aircraft developed by Helibras to meet the Brazilian Navy’s specific needs. The helicopter manufacturer also currently is in charge of modernising the Brazilian Army’s aviation fleet of Panther and Fennecs (H125M) helicopters.
Helibras has a state-of-the-art engineering centre that develops specific mission systems for the Brazilian Armed Forces’ fleet of helicopters. To improve operating fleet support and assure aircraft availability, the Airbus subsidiary established a Client Support Centre to provide exclusive service and agility to customers.
More than 15,000 pilots and technicians have been qualified in Helibras Training Centres in Itajubá and Rio de Janeiro, which include the continent’s only H225 full-flight simulator.
As part of its commitment to work with the country’s industrial manufacturing base, Helibras has developed a local supply chain that includes more than 30 Brazilian companies.
H225 full-flight simulator
Airbus is well represented in the Brazilian defence market, offering transport, mission and combat aircraft and services with its flagship product: the C295 tactical airlifter.
As of February 2019, 13 Airbus C295 transport aircraft were operated in the country. Airbus also lends technical support to Brazilian Armed Forces operating P-3 Orion and C295 aircraft.
Airbus played a key role in public safety efforts during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil through the Airbus Tetrapol network, an integrated digital system of radio communication. Airbus equipped the country’s Federal Police force with a radio communication system that allowed them to monitor security within the stadiums and at various “FIFA Fan Fests.”
Airbus offers intelligence services to partners across the country and delivers optical and radar imagery for a multitude of customers in the environmental, agricultural, mining, public works, public safety and defence sectors.
C295 search and rescue aircraft
Airbus provides Earth-observation satellite-based geo-intelligence services and builds telecommunication satellites and orbital and space exploration infrastructure and launchers – and is well positioned to be a prime satellite acquisition contractor for future Brazilian government purchases.
For Brazil, Airbus built the SKY Brasil-1 relay platform (also known as SKYB-1), a telecommunications satellite 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/DIRECTV 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 between Airbus and Safran.
Before being acquired by Airbus, Equatorial Sistemas – a Brazilian supplier of equipment and services for the country’s space programme – partnered with Airbus on the Humidity Sounder Brazil project to design one of six measuring instruments aboard the U.S. NASA observation satellite, Aqua.
The Brazilian National Institute for Space Research (INPE) is developing an environmental monitoring satellite equipped with a sophisticated digital data recorder built with Airbus technology and power control/distribution unit, as well as solar array driver electronics supplied by CRISA, an Airbus subsidiary.
Partnerships between Airbus and Brazil go beyond the boundaries of business. Airbus has sought greater cooperation with the country’s aviation industry through the its divisions, companies and local partners. Airbus has developed long-term collaborations with local entities such as LATAM Airlines Group, Avianca Brasil, Azul Airlines, the Brazilian Armed Forces, the Brazilian Space Agency and the National Institute of Space Research.
Airbus believes in the continuing education and development of aspiring Brazilian engineers, and is involved in several corporate social responsibility programmes focused on instilling a passion for science in the country’s youth.
The Flying Challenge – created in Brazil by the Airbus Foundation in conjunction with Helibras – aims to inspire students, particularly those at risk of dropping out of school, to continue their education and explore careers in aerospace. The programme provides mentoring and academic assistance in math and Portuguese as well as behavioural lectures. The initiative has hosted activities at Helibras and held a drone workshop at the Federal University of Itajubá in partnership with AeroFrog. Nine children from Itajubá’s Isaura Pereira dos Santos Municipal School in the Brazilian State of Minas Gerais are recent winners of the competition. The children and their families had the unique experience of flying in the full-flight simulator of the H225M Helibras helicopter.
For more than 10 years, Airbus has been active in the AeroDesign Challenge of SAE Brazil (the country’s unit of the Society of Automotive Engineers) and is a proud sponsor of a student team from the University of São Paulo’s Engineering School of São Carlos (EESC-USP). Since 2009, Airbus also has sponsored the “Semana da Engenharia Aeronáutica” (the Week of Aeronautical Engineering), organised by EESC-USP.
Airbus also supports a trainee programme that gives EESC-USP students the opportunity to participate in a long-term internship at Airbus facilities in France and Germany. Students have been offered placement opportunities working on International Space Station hardware at Airbus’ facility in Friedrichshafen, Germany; at commercial aircraft facilities in Toulouse, France; and helicopter installations in Donauwörth, Germany.
In 2013, Airbus began sponsoring the Student of the Year award designed to recognise the best-performing student in the Aerospace Engineering Course at the Brazilian Technological Institute of Aeronautics (ITA) in São José dos Campos. Winners of this award are given the opportunity to experience Airbus in action, witnessing first-hand an Ariane rocket launch in Kourou, French Guiana; job-shadowing Airbus engineers throughout Europe; and attending Airbus-sponsored international air shows.
Brazilian university students have also had the opportunity to co-innovate alongside Airbus engineers through the Airbus “Fly Your Ideas” programme, a unique global student competition designed to build mutually-beneficial collaborations and relationships between the company and the next generation of innovators. Every two years, Airbus offers students from all over the world the opportunity to work on real challenges facing the aviation industry via “Fly Your Ideas.”
Teams from Brazil have consistently appeared in the final rounds of the competition. In 2013, Team Levar from Brazil’s University of São Paulo won the Fly Your Ideas competition, placing first for its air-powered baggage handling concept. And in 2015, Team Retrolley, also from Brazil’s University of São Paulo, took second place for developing a trolley designed to reduce both in-flight waste and the time needed to collect and sort rubbish post-flight, speeding up airline operations – particularly with short-haul carriers.
As part of its commitment to enhancing the communities where it operates, Airbus has also supported “Gotas de Flor com Amor” (Flower Drops with Love), an NGO based in São Paulo, for more than 10 years. Gotas de Flor offers educational activities for disadvantaged children, teenagers and their families that aim to improve quality of life and instil human values and respect for the environment.
At Helibras, Wings for the Future is an annual project that invites its employees to speak with public high school students about their career prospects and life challenges. This project, as well as others promoted by the Helibras Social Responsibility Department called Instituto Helibras, aims to inspire young people to promote positive change in their communities.
In the area of humanitarian relief, LATAM and Azul partnered in 2017 with the Airbus Foundation in a first-of-its kind collaboration to help the victims of devastating Chilean forest fires by transporting relief supplies. Over the past 10 years, LATAM has been involved in other humanitarian missions to assist victims affected by Brazilian natural disasters.