Brazilian Adventure – Day 1

AirplaneIt was a great summer and now it seems so long ago. September was a blur with board meetings, charitable events, a high school reunion, the marriage of one of my sons, a trip to Demo in San Diego with a stopover along the way in Telluride with some friends, and then the business trip to Brazil. I would not have predicted that e-tirement would have led to business in Brazil. The origin goes back to 1972 when I got my pilot’s license. The interest in aviation was somewhat dormant for a few decades but like motorcycling it came roaring back years later.
The re-kindled interest lead to an investment a couple of years ago in a small aviation charter business in Danbury, Connecticut called Diamond Air Charters. The company started a dozen years ago with one airplane and now has six. Although getting a black eye from Congress and car companies, chartering aircraft can add tremendous convenience and cost effective transportation for busy executives, especially when it comes to destinations that have general aviation airports — there are 5,300 of them. A major change in the economic model of charter aviation is about to enter the picture with the emergence of a new category of aircraft called “very light jets” or VLJ’s. The new jets will typically seat two pilots plus four passengers, can fly up to 41,000 feet at more than 400 mph like big jets, are very quiet, and are highly fuel efficient compared to prior generations of aircraft. The leading producer of the new planes will likely be Embraer. The name means “a Brazilian aerospace company” and it is headquartered in Sao Jose dos Campos, Brazil.

Check-in for the flight to Sao Paulo at JFK was uneventful although it could have been much more automated. A swipe of the finger or a vascular scan could have validated that it was me and then the online reservation could have been confirmed and an electronic message sent to the gate to be followed by a second biometric authentication. In the future I expect that we will be able to go directly to the gate, authenticate and board. Security was rigorous as usual and I knew the pound of oxinium that makes up my artificial knee would set off the alarm. The body check was easy but the “please remove your laptop” step proved more difficult. What is a laptop? I removed the ThinkPad as usual but the Kindle and Kindle DX were still in my backpack. Are they laptops? They surely are computers — the person doing the scanning said he believed I had a DVD player. That must be what the scan looked like. I also had a GPS, a pedometer, a Sony HDCam, an iPod Nano, and a few other electronic gadgets in the bag. None of them are “laptops”. The line of demarcation will get more and more blurred moving forward.
My first trip to Brazil was in 2004 when I visited Salvador, Bahia for an IT conference. It was very beautiful there but my visit was just an overnight stay to give a speech. Today’s flight was to Sao Paulo, Brazil where I would be spending at least four very full days — no trips to the beach. Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world, with nearly 200 million people and 4,655 miles of coastline and it is the largest national economy in Latin America and the tenth largest economy in the world. Brazilian exports are booming, with major export products including coffee, automobiles, soybeans, iron ore, orange juice, steel, ethanol, textiles, footwear, corned beef, electrical equipment and aircraft. It is the latter product that brought me here.

This will be a big day for us in San Jose dos Campos. The plane arrived last night at 7:30 PM. The young jumpsuited Embraer captain emerged from the plane with a very big smile. He said it flew perfectly. Today we will inspect it for a few hours, get a briefing from Embraer engineering, and then take first acceptance flight up to Gavião Peixoto. This will allow us to give the plane a workout during the 45 minute flight and also tour the factory where the plane was made. We will see the entire assembly line, the paint shop, etc. The Embraer Unidade Gavião Peixoto Airport runway is 16,295 ft , fourth longest runway in the world.

Then we are having a Brazillian lunch and then fly back to San Jose dos Campos to work on paper work and further inspections. The Embraer team will work 2nd and 3rd shifts touching up things we identify and then on Thursday we will have the financial closing and a lot more paperwork. Embraer said they had never seen a customer so prepared with all the documents and manuals — all in a binder I prepared at home on Monday. On Friday the Brazillian FAA comes for an inspection and more paperwork. We may depart Friday but more likely Saturday morning. I have lots of movies and pictures of various airplanes but today will get them of N784JP. Stay tuned. This will be a big day for us in San Jose dos Campos. The plane arrived last night at 7:30 PM. The young jumpsuited Embraer captain emerged from the plane with a very big smile. He said it flew perfectly. Today we will inspect it for a few hours, get a briefing from Embraer engineering, and then take first acceptance flight up to Gavião Peixoto. This will allow us to give the plane a workout during the 45 minute flight and also tour the factory where the plane was made. We will see the entire assembly line, the paint shop, etc. Then we are having a Brazillian lunch and then fly back to San Jose dos Campos to work on paper work and further inspections. The Embraer team will work 2nd and 3rd shifts touching up things we identify and then on Thursday we will have the financial closing and a lot more paperwork. Embraer said they had never seen a customer so prepared with all the documents and manuals — all in a binder I prepared at home on Monday. On Friday the Brazillian FAA comes for an inspection and more paperwork. We may depart Friday but more likely Saturday morning. I have lots of movies and pictures of various airplanes but today will get them of N784JP. Stay tuned.