A gust of wind detached part of the roof of Dassault’s LABACE chalet, tossing it onto two aircraft and provoking the orderly evacuation of the fair at about 5 p.m. yesterday. The fire brigade ushered fairgoers to the exit, with bicycle-rack barriers from around aircraft serving to block the red carpet behind the retreating crowd. There were apparently no injuries.
The fair—held at São Paulo Congonhas Airport—formally runs from noon to 8 p.m., but in practice runs later. Some years, organizers have only halted parties by cutting the electricity as midnight approached. The three-day LABACE, which closes today, had welcomed 5,112 visitors Tuesday, over a thousand in just the first 15 minutes yesterday, and seemed well on the way to meeting or breaking records.
Traditionally, the event doesn’t warm up until the sun goes down, so yesterday’s forced early closing cut into the fair’s run time, especially as Tuesday’s opening evening was marred by rain.
There was already trouble in the air Tuesday night. Leonardo altered arrangements for a planned morning press junket to its new facility in Itapevi, announcing that the 40-km trip would be made not by helicopter but by van. After a night of rain, Wednesday morning’s sky was mostly sunny, but by the time the van arrived for the post-trip briefing, the Leonardo chalet was repeatedly shedding bits of cladding, despite a team on ladders attempting to reattach them, and the briefing never took place.
As the evacuation was underway yesterday, the roof of the TAM AE chalet rippled. The winds were sufficiently severe, with gusts up about 38 knots—high enough to temporarily halt landings and takeoffs at Congonhas Airport. Local weather reports blame an offshore tropical cyclone for the winds, which brought down some 70 trees and countless boughs.
And the Band Played On
Yesterday’s LABACE calendar included a cocktail party for 300 across the airport grounds at the airport authorities’ pavilion, marking the 13th anniversary of show organizer ABAG, the Brazilian business aviation association. Conceived as the fair’s climax, it went on despite the premature evacuation of the fair area. The festivities included live music.
A press release sent out by ABAG last evening thanked exhibitors and visitors for their comprehension and said “the event will resume at its normal hour tomorrow.” The local forecast for today is cold and rainy.