9 de abril de 2021

Brazil starts 2021 with 2,352 agricultural aircraft

Brazilian fleet growths in 2020 was 3.16%, driven mainly by the increase in commodities in the field

The Brazilian agricultural aviation fleet entered in 2021 with 2,352 aircraft, which represents a growth of 3.16% in the sector in 2020. The balance was released on Wednesday morning (April 7), by the National Union of Agricultural Aviation Companies (SINDAG). The announcement took place during a web meeting with journalists, promoted by the entity. The executive director of SINDAG, Gabriel Colle, presented the report and drew comparisons between numbers of turboprop aircraft and conventional piston engines, the market share of each aircraft model and other data.

The research was carried out by the former director of SINDAG and consultant Eduardo Cordeiro de Araújo. As in all years, Araújo consulted data from the Brazilian Aeronautical Registry (RAB), of the National Civil Aviation Agency (ANAC). According to him, the information is a portrait of RAB on December 31, 2020.

See the fleet tables at the end of this article

Araújo has worked in the agricultural aviation sector since the late 1960s and has seen much of its development up close. He witnessed the beginning of its regulation (in the same decade), the start of its institutional organization (he was one of the founders of SINDAG in 1991) and met or lived with the pioneers of the sector in Brazil, since Clóvis Candiota (the first ag pilot in the country and patron of ag aviation industry in Brazil) and Marialdo Moreira, passing by Ada Rogato (first Brazilian female ag pilot), Deodoro Ribas and José Carlos Christofoletti – this one is also a partner at SINDAG today. Agronomist and pilot, Araújo also worked at Embraer and helped in the development of the Ipanema project – the first Brazilian agricultural aircraft.

The Meeting with the Press is part of the Agricultural Aviation 2022 project, by SINDAG. Its agenda foresees a series of continuous efforts to research, technological development, improve management and increased transparency of the ag aviation industry, with a focus on efficiency, safety (operational and environmental) and on getting closer to civil society. The project is sponsored by Syngenta.


The positive balance of 72 agricultural aircraft in 2020 almost confirmed exactly the growth that SINDAG had foreseen in September last year, in a survey with Brazilian and North American agricultural aircraft suppliers. “We only missed two planes in our projection, but we were right to say that the growth would remain above 3%, for the third consecutive year”, highlights the entity’s president, Thiago Magalhães Silva – who did not participate in the event, but did the analysis before the meeting.

Despite the lower percentage in relation to 2019 (3.92%) and 2018 (3.74%), Magalhães recalls that the entity foresaw this brake, due to the scenery that drove the economy into a freeze in the first half of 2020 (by the oil crisis between Russia and Saudi Arabia and Covid-19). That froze some planned aircraft purchases. “With the pandemic, the dollar went up and uncertainties came. However, in the aftermath there was a rise in agricultural commodities, and this reflected in the resumption of aircraft purchases.” In addition to investment in technologies, the role of pilots and professionals who continued to fly prevailed to make the field account for the high demand for food and inputs for essential products. “At the beginning of the health crisis, the Brazilian government placed agricultural aviation on the list of essential activities”, recalls Magalhães.

The Sindag´s president recalls that 2021 has also started with the expectation of growing, from the announcement, by Embraer, of the sale of 27 aircraft in the first two months alone – 8% more than the 25 aircrafts sold by the company throughout 2020. Magalhães says this growth trend for 2021 is not confirmed only if a fall in commodity values with the dollar still high or if there were a significant crop failure – due to climatic factors, for example.

But the leader makes a reservation about 2022: the tax issue. “On March 12, we had the extension of the ICMS-100 Agreement – by the National Council for Treasury Policy (CONFAZ), valid until December 31. This pact provides the temporary reduction of state taxes (ICMS) on the purchase of parts, equipment, and inputs for some sectors of the economy. If there is no renewal next year, the ICMS tax rate for imported aircraft, for example in São Paulo, will rise from 4% to 18%, the same for parts.” What, he recalls, also affects nationally manufactured airplanes, “which have around 80% of imported components”.

Comparison between companies and private operators

According to Eduardo Araújo’s balance sheet, the year 2020 ended with 1,459 agricultural aircraft belonging to the 279 companies that operate with crops for rural producers – the so-called Specialized Air Service (SAE) operators. The number represents an increase of 38 aircraft in the year. Another 869 aircraft belong to about 650 private operators (category TPP, according to ANAC), who are farmers or cooperatives that have their own planes – plus 34 planes and helicopters in 2020. Despite having collected the general data of the operators SAE and TPP, Araújo has not yet analyzed his division between states.

The 24 planes remaining in the account are from federal or states governments, public agencies, as well as prototypes and instructional aircraft. For example, airplanes belonging to fire brigades (firefighting), those used by the Air Force Academy and equipment from the country’s six agricultural pilot training schools.


Regarding fuels used by agricultural aviation in Brazil, there are 1,135 airplanes and helicopters powered by aviation gasoline (AVGAS), 744 airplanes powered by ethanol and 473 aircraft using aviation kerosene (QAV-1). This gives a proportion of, respectively, 48.26%, 31.63% and 20.11% of the fleet.

In the case of the proportion between airplanes and helicopters, the country’s agricultural fleet entered 2021 with 2,331 fixed-wing versus 21 rotary-wing aircraft. Figures that at the beginning of 2020 were, respectively, 2,264 and 16. Which indicates that the return of helicopters to the Brazilian market, which occurred in 2016 (after about 40 years absent), is gradually consolidating. Especially in areas with uneven relief or obstacles, or without an airstrip in the short or medium distance – since the helicopter can land on the support team’s truck.

Mato Grosso leads the ranking with Rio Grande do Sul in second

Among the units of the Federation, the largest aero-agricultural fleet remains that of Mato Grosso, which received another 26 aircraft in 2020, now totaling 550 aircraft. The second place on the list is still from Rio Grande do Sul, even though the State has reduced its air force over crops by five planes – now to 421 aircraft.

Third in the list, the State of São Paulo also maintains its position, despite the decrease of six aircraft last year. There are now 333 planes and helicopters in operation in São Paulo, according to ANAC records.

Overall, the report points to 14 states with an increased fleet and six that have shown some reduction, in addition to the four that have remained stable. According to Eduardo Araújo, the list of the fleet by state considers the domicile of the operator (company or rural producer) who operates the aircraft – who is not necessarily its owner (for example, in case of leases). Which may also explain part of the oscillation between states who lost or won aircraft on the list.


The two states at the top of the ranking also present a curious difference. According to the last operators survey by states, in 2018 Mato Grosso concentrated the largest number of TPP operators – at the time with 233 private operators against 31 ag aviation companies. At the same time, the Rio Grande do Sul fleet was mostly in companies – 72 SAE operators against 42 farmers who had their own airplanes. Although there is not yet a new study to operators ranking by States, the SINDAG’s estimative is that, proportionally, the scenario remains the same.

For this reason, the country now has two aero-agricultural entities to cover this sector. SINDAG works on a process of continuous improvement focused on excellence in the outsourcing of crop treatment by producers. In this case, to optimize the price and efficiency ratio in providing services to farmers – so that they prefer to hire the service instead of buying ag aircraft. So, the farmer can focus energy and resources on the crop itself, the market and management in the farm.

Founded in 2018, the Brazilian Agricultural Aviation Institute (IBRAVG) covers operators TPP, with a focus on qualifying tool professionals and management on properties. In common between the two institutions, the joint effort for good operating practices in ag aviation, continuous improvement of professionals and technologies, tools for compliance with legal regulations for processes, documents, and data, for example.

The share of turbos grows and Embraer reigns with biofuel aircraft

The 2020 fleet report also confirmed a trend towards greater participation of turboprop aircraft in the Brazilian ag aviation market: from 3.39% in 2011, its percentage had already reached 18.48% in 2019 and, last year, closed with 20, 11%. In practice, the share of turboprops has grown 284.5% since 2011, from 123 to 473 aircraft operating in field crops. At the same time, the total ag aviation fleet grew 38.92% in the period – from 1693 aircraft in 2011 to 2352 at the close of 2020.

According to Gabriel Colle, turboprop aircraft are bigger, more powerful and have better performance, ideal for large areas of crops. In this case, all imported (especially from the United States, the largest manufacturer in the sector). On the other hand, among the 51 aircraft models operating in Brazil, from 16 manufacturers, the largest share remains with Embraer, with planes with conventional engines (piston).

“The Brazilian manufacturer has 1,308 planes in operation and holds 55.66% of the market, according to the figures obtained from the ANAC in end of 2020. A little below of the 56.32% in 2019, but far from signifying a loss of breath, in view of the surge in sales in the first quarter of this year”, observes the SINDAG’s executive director.

All thanks to the Ipanema model, which, despite being in its fifties since July, remains up to date with the EMB-203. This is the seventh generation of the model, launched in 2015 and the second in which the planes already leave the factory powered by ethanol. Like its predecessor, the EMB-202 A – launched in 2004 and which was the first aircraft in the world homologated from the factory for use of biofuel.


Occupying the second place in the ranking of manufacturers present in the Brazilian fleet, the North American Air Tractor ended 2020 with a 19.22% share of the Brazilian ag aviation market. The company has eight models operating in Brazil, of different sizes, power and load capacities ranging from 1,500 to more than 3,000 liters in the hopper (tank where the load to be applied in the field is located). Which, according to Araújo’s survey, also makes it the owner of 89.33% of the universe of turboprop agricultural aircraft in the country.

In fact, the 38 agricultural planes sent to Brazil in 2020 by the Olney plant in Texas, according to its Brazilian representatives, represent almost a third of the 123 turboprop aircraft delivered by Air Tractor throughout the year. The total deliveries of Air Tractor are included in the report released last February by the Association of Manufacturers of General Aviation in the USA (GAMA). Given that it demonstrates another reality that has been repeated in recent years: Brazil is the largest market for the Texan company outside the United States.

The other great North American turbo ag airplanes manufacturer in Brazil, Thrush Aircraft also celebrates 2020 with high great expectations for this year. But it does not reveal how many of the 20 devices of its worldwide production (also according to GAMA) came to Brazil.

Thrush is restarting its trajectory and is gradually recovering its breath in the market. After filed for bankruptcy in August 2019, the end of the same year the company was already announcing announced completion of a restructuring that left it “well positioned for growth.”

Preview of the Mercosur and Brazilian Agricultural Aviation Congress

After the balance of the fleet, the Sindag’s Meeting with the Press also had a description on the preparations for the Congress of Agricultural Aviation in Brazil, which will be virtual again this year. The meeting also will cover the XXIX Mercosur and Latin American Agricultural Aviation Congress and will commemorate the ag aviation industry 74 years in Brazil and its centenary in the world.

The congress will be held from July 20 to 22, with lectures, debates, business roundtables and virtual exhibitions. According to the coordinator of SINDAG’s Events, Marília Güenter, the new virtual platform of the Congress works in the concept of gamification, to generate more engagement of visitors.

“By participating in events and exhibitions, people will, for example, be able to visit the stands and interact with representatives of exhibiting companies by chat or WhatsApp button. In addition to chatting with them at any time in a virtual room, that will remain open at each booth for the three days of the event”, says Marília.

Exhibitors also will have support from SINDAG to produce videos and posts, in addition to training about the resources of the new platform to visibility for brand and products. Visitors to the virtual Congress will have a video tutorial to “walk” through the digital event and take the opportunity to see news technologies, networking and participate in debates about the ag aviation industry.

Registration will be available at the end of April. When registering, the participant will already have access to some spaces on the platform. The expectation of the ag aviation union is to beat the 17 thousand views of the Sindag’s 2020 Web Congress.


Castor Becker Júnior – Asses de Imprensa



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