By Florencia Lucero Heguy
With the collaboration of Antonio Sapienza
It has been a decade since aviation, especially civil, is in full growth. With the help of the state, today Paraguay has an internal market that reaches almost the entire country.
Since 2010, the Paraguayan aviation market experienced an unusual growth, after ten years of stagnation. During this decade, the aircraft fleet grew with the incorporation of approximately five hundred small aircraft. In this way, the National Aircraft Registry (RAN) of the DINAC (National Directorate of Civil Aviation) was forced to enable a new series for registrations, the ZP-B, because the traditional ZP-T was already full.
Due to this growth, more hangars and maintenance workshops were built at the Silvio Pettirossi International Airport in Asunción and, on a smaller scale, at the Guaraní Airport that serves Ciudad del Este. In addition, hangars were put into operation at the new Encarnación airport and at Pilar airport, both located in the south of the country. The demand for aircraft was such that several companies are engaged in the import of Cessna, Beechcraft and, on a smaller scale, second-hand Piper aircraft that they bring from the United States, Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay.
At least one company is engaged in the purchase of repairable civil aircraft in the United States and brings them under those conditions, being fully repaired in Paraguay, passing the rigorous technical inspection of DINAC. Likewise, in the last five years, the market for experimental and ultralight aircraft for which the RAN has enabled the ZP-X (experimental) and ZP-UX (ultralight) serials followed by three correlative digits has also grown.
It is important to highlight that the state was not absent, since it supported collaborating in aeronautical infrastructure and the collection of low taxes, to encourage the activity. On the other hand, the construction of a new passenger terminal at Asunción International Airport will begin in the middle of this year. It is expected to be ready by mid-2023, leaving the current terminal exclusively for general aviation. Runways were also built with the objective of guaranteeing an improvement in the sector: two paved runways in the Chaco, in Fuerte Olimpo, of reinforced cement, and that of Infante Rivarola, of asphalt, and improved those of Asunción. It should be noted that this year it is planned to convert the current taxiway into a second runway in order to resurface the current one.
For other locations in Chaco there are no regular flights because it is not profitable, due to low demand, neither for private companies nor for SETAM. In the past, some companies, such as the missing ARPA of the TAM Group, attempted to make regular flights to the Mennonite colonies of the Central Chaco, understanding that, since they have high purchasing power, they would frequently use air services to travel to the capital for their businesses, but they had little demand and in a few months they closed the route. Currently, many Chaco Mennonites have their own aircraft and good airfields in Philadelphia, Loma Plata and Neuland, with hangars and services. This way, they don’t need regular flights.
For its part, many decades ago, the Military Air Transport traveled regularly to several locations in the Chaco and, although there was not much demand, the flights were subsidized and did not matter.
Five years ago, the old Military Air Transport (Transporte Aéreo Militar, TAM) that is now called SETAM (Servicio de Transporte Aéreo Militar) of the Paraguayan Air Force, which operates with CASA C.212-200 / 400 aircraft, was reinstalled in the commercial aviation market on the Asunción-Concepción-Vallemí-Puerto Casado-Fuerte Olimpo and Bahía Negra route. These flights are accessible to the population and, since there is a great demand, frequencies will probably be increased. For its part, the private company Sol del Paraguay Airlines, of Argentine capital, resumed operations with domestic flights with Cessna 208B Grand Caravan, through daily flights to Pedro Juan Caballero, Ciudad del Este and Encarnación. The only Paraguayan company, although with Spanish-Canadian capital, that operates international flights from Asunción is Paranair (formerly Amaszonas Paraguay), which is currently flying to Iquique, Buenos Aires, Montevideo and Curitiba. As for foreign airlines operating in Asunción they are LATAM, Flybondi, Aerolineas Argentinas, Amaszonas Aerolíneas de Bolivia, Amaszonas Uruguay, GOL, COPA, Avianca and Air Europa.
With respect to the eastern region, the road infrastructure is quite developed with paved roads and good bus services, so the demand for domestic flights is not high, except for Ciudad del Este, where today Paranair and Sol del Paraguay operate. Those who use these services the most are entrepreneurs who live in Asunción and do business in Ciudad del Este, but cannot yet acquire their own aircraft. It should be noted that in the Chaco the road infrastructure is very bad and the only paved route is the Transchaco, which is also not in good condition, so reaching very remote locations takes a long time.