Brazil business jet market soars as economy grows

SAO PAULO, July 17 (Reuters) - The market for private jets and helicopters in Brazil should grow close to 10 percent annually in the coming years as the economy takes off, offering lucrative business opportunities for aircraft manufacturers, the local industry association said on Tuesday.

A continent-sized nation with poor roads and few railways, Brazil has long been a country where private planes are crucial to doing business. Now, as the economy gains steam and an agricultural boom generates business far away from the country’s industrial hubs, demand for small aircraft is growing at its fastest pace in decades.

“Business travel is no longer limited to Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia. That means aircraft are increasingly important to the country’s economic growth,” said Adalberto Febeliano, executive vice president of the Brazilian Aviation Association, or ABAG.

Already the world’s third-largest market for business aircraft after the United States and Canada, Brazil boasts a fleet of about 1,500 private jets, turbo-prop planes and helicopters -- a common form of transportation for executives in traffic-clogged cities like Sao Paulo.

The aviation association expects the fleet to expand by about 150 aircraft annually over the next three years, reaching 1,950 in 2010. That would likely generate between $400 million and $500 million annually in private aircraft sales in Brazil in that period, according to industry estimates.

The jump in demand is good news for aircraft manufacturers like Brazil's Embraer EMBR3.SAERJ.N, Canada's Bombardier Inc. BBDb.TO and France's Dassault Aviation AVMD.PA, all of which are aggressively targeting the business aviation niche. (Reporting by Todd Benson)