A balance sheet for FIDAE 2014
|Friday 16 May 2014||Text by Carlos Ay under Air shows & aviation events|
If we were asked to summarize FIDAE 2014 with a classical quote, we’d definitively go for “beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder”. From trends and perceptions initially perceived in 2012, opinions about the fair seem to fall into two openly opposing perspectives: Outright approval or outright condemnation, with nothing in between. In other reports and in our comment footers, fellow correspondents and readers have expressed critical points of view tagging FIDAE 2014 with epithets ranging from “boring” to “disastrous”, from “decadent” to “shamuflly expensive” , from “unattractive” to “unattentive to [the specialised] public”…
But organizers and most other media celebrated FIDAE 2014 as a quite successful event. Post-fair figures (not all of them supplied by the organizers) seem to underwrite their perspective, as exhibitors grew 4% to 587, participating nations expanded to 43 (including newcomers Indonesia, Lithuania, Malaysia and Slovenia), aircraft on display increased 11% and attending public purportedly grew 25% to 150,000 people, a noteworthy figure when compared to the 160,000 people collected by music festival, Lollapalooza Chile, which took in Santiago coinciding with FIDAE 2014’s air show on 29 and 30 March.
FIDAE also continued to strengthen its positioning as a key centre for high-level air and space conferences and simposiums. As anticipated in our show preview (see “FIDAE 2014 preparing for launch: One month and counting down!“), FIDAE again hosted the South American Air Force Logistics Commanders Meeting (XV edition), IATA’s Wings of Change International Aviation Summit (VII edition) and the Chilean Air Force-sponsored Space Conference (II edition). But it was newcomer, aviation entrepreneur and rockstar, Bruce Dickinson, who caught most media attention with the two “Creative Business and Innovation” lectures he gave on Friday 28.
According to statitstics based on our exclusive inventory of attending aircraft (see “FIDAE 2014 participating aircraft“), the total number of aircraft noted in Pudahuel rose 11% from FIDAE 2012. But the increase concentrated only on sports aircraft (ultra lights, experimentals and light sport aircraft) since the number of military, executive and general aviation aircraft remained the same and commercial aircraft decreased 25%. In addition to illustrating relative growth factors, statistics make it evident that civil aviation is slowly eroding the pervasiveness of military aviation in FIDAE, since civil aircraft participation increased from 38% to 44% between 2012 and 2014.
The analysis by airlift segments highlights a relevant expansion in rotary wing participants, increasing 24% over FIDAE 2012 figures and capturing a noteworthy 25% of all aircraft on display. Although retaining an overwhelming majority at 74%, the fixed-wing aircraft segment recorded only a 7% increase over 2012 figures and gliders remained unchanged at 1%, although doubling the number of gliders on display (namely, two Chilean Air Force Januses).
Novelties on display
Ostensibly curtailed by fiscal shortages and diplomatic constraints, there was a distinctive shortage of international military exhibits. Only the Argentine, Brazilian and United States air forces attended (and only with the same or a lower number of aircraft than in 2012), all Chilean guests services did so with exhibitions mirroring or resembling those from FIDAE 2012 and the Chilean Air Force supplied the remainder of military aircraft on display.
In spite of the gloomy outlook above, military manufacturers managed to produce a number of models day viewing at the show, including AgustaWestland’s AW139M, Beechcraft’s AT-6 Texan II, Bell’s 406GT and Boeing’s AH-6I. Although not entirely new to the show, we also recorded recent additions to existing fleets in the Chilean Army (AS532ALE Cougar and Citation Sovereign), the Chilean Air Force (Cirrus SR-22 and Extra 300/L) and the Argentine Air Force (electronic warfare Learjet 35A).
In one of its dullest FIDAEs in several years, the commercial air transport segment was indisputably dominated by the week-long exhibition of Airbus’ flagship model, the A380. Boeing only presented battle in the single-aisle sector by exhibiting the Gol Linhas Aéreas 737-800 that performed Brazil’s first bio fuel-powered flight (additionally re-positioning the brand in preparation for the airline’s return to Chile); while Airbus promptly responded by showing one of LAN’s newest, sharklet-equipped, A320s. All else said, the segment’s only two novelty items were Bombardier’s lastest evolution of the Dash 8 series (the Q400 Next Gen) and Cessna’s ultimate Model 208, the Grand Caravan Ex.
Lower segments, higher expansions
Contrary to the upper segments in the industry, corporate, general and sports aviation added life and spice to the fair. Executive aviation manufacturers and vendors from different parts of the World swarmed into Pudahuel to show their most enticing offerings, including rotary-wing novelties such as the first South American AW119Ke and the AW109SP GrandNew by AgustaWestland, the first Chilean EC130T2 and a luxurious EC155B1 Dauphin by Airbus Helicopters and the Model 429WLG and Model 505 Jet Ranger X by Bell Helicopter. Biz jets newcomers to the show included the Learjet 75 by Bombardier, the CitationJet M2 by Cessna, the Eclipse EA500, the Legacy 650 by Embraer and the G280 and G550 by Gulfstream.
General aviation offerings were equally active at FIDAE 2014, day viewing newer variants from existing types, including the SR-22T GTS by Cirrus and Aerocardal, the AT-802 Fire Boss by Air Tractor and AgSur, the Diamond DA40 by Diamond and Aviasur, the TTx Corvalis by Cessna and the SVH-4 helicopter training simulator by Cicaré and Vertical Helicopters. But it was sports aviation the one attaining the largest leap by entering FIDAE in full force. Not only did it provide the only aerobatic team displaying at the show (more later), but it also featured a flock of ultra-light and experimental aircraft as well as three offerings in the LSA/light sports category (Harmony, Skyleader and Pipistrel).
The show must go on!
As anticipated in our pre-show musings, FIDAE 2014 lacked two of its most traditional attractions, namely the Brazilian Fumaça and the Chilean Halcones military aerobatic teams. The Brazilians were undergoing conversion to the Super Tucano while the Chileans were rebuilding the team after loosing one of their pilots, one mechanic and one plane in March last year (the replacement aircraft was in fact exhibited at the fair, but only statically). Covering the double vacancy, an Argentine civil aerobatic team exhibited their three RANS experimentals in what team leader and founder, César Falistocco, defined as “a team changing experience”.
Away from the days when jet fighter noise represented “the sound of freedom” (as a Boeing Defense & Space executive put it), environmental, safety and insurance restrictions turned most flying displays into dull, heavily-restricted demonstrations, both in minimum altitudes, duration and spectacularity. Even though military exhibitions continued to dominate an estimated 60% of the flight schedule, manufacturer demonstrations fell to one of their lowest perceived levels (about 20%) and the only true innovations came from Swiss stuntman, Yves “JetMan” Rossi, Chilean wing suit sportsman, Sebastián “Ardilla” Álvarez, and César Falistocco’s aerobatic team.
All things said, it may be concluded that FIDAE 2014 was absolutely faithful to its two main target audiences. Running an event which catered exactly for aerospace and defence professionals during the Trade Fair and the Chilean general public during the Air Show seemingly paid off, as attested by figures listed above. And, with 9 companies from Russia, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Ucraine, Bielorussia, Italy and India reserving 1,722 square meters in FIDAE 2016 stand space before leaving the 2014 show, business is ostensibly expected to “go on as usual”…
No matter how much “hard core” aviation enthusiasts have complained for the shortage of “heavy metal” (F-16, T-50 or at least a Venezuelan Sukhoi!) or legitimate cutting-edge innovations or how much the attending public suffered queuing to enter the fair, queuing to access the A380, queing for restrooms, queing for food or queuing to exit the show (essential services remain a notorious FIDAE weakness, and general media is becoming increasingly critical about it), the fair is unlikely to change meaningfully in the foreseeable future. Regardless of trends and complains, Gaceta Aeronáutica will continue to cover the fair with the dedication demonstrated in the last five editions (see our complete “FIDA/FIDAE” index for past reports and reprints from legacy publications Pista 18, Vuelo Rasante and other media).
See you in Santiago 29 March to 3 April, 2016!
Additional FIDAE 2014 coverage by Gaceta Aeronáutica:
- Russian Helicopters strengthens Latin American ties at FIDAE 2014 (text by Carlos Ay).
- Bell Helicopter listens to a relevant market at FIDAE 2014 (text by Carlos Ay).
- AgustaWestland rehearses South American expansion at FIDAE 2014 (text by Carlos Ay).
- FIDAE 2014 participating aircraft (text by Carlos Ay).
- AW139M initiates South American tour at FIDAE 2014 (text by Carlos Ay).
- FIDAE 2014 preparing for launch: One month and counting down! (text by Carlos Ay).
Sources: El Mercurio, FIDAE, International Air Transport Association, La Tercera, Modo Charlie and Wikipedia. Acknowledgements: Michel Ancieux, Fernando Puppio and Diego Rojo (blog Mercosur) contributed to this report.