Latin America Grows U.S. Aviation Exports

Aerial view of Mexico City
Credit: imageBROKER / Alamy Stock Photo

In the wake of another lively MRO Latin America conference, it is worth looking at which Latin countries constitute the biggest markets for U.S. aviation exports and which nations have recently been increasing their demand for U.S. aircraft fastest.

According to Census Bureau trade statistics, Brazil imported $6.7 billion of U.S. aircraft, engines and parts in 2022, with Mexico following with $4.7 billion. These two nations led the rest of Latin America by wide margins in the volume of their purchases.

Colombia was third with $861 million in imports from the U.S. last year, followed by Chile with $849 million. Panama came in fifth with $658 million in aviation purchases from the U.S. Argentina, much larger than Panama, followed with $463 million in aviation buys from the U.S. Peru bought a very respectable $336 million of aircraft materials last year.

These figures give a rough idea of the importance of various nations to U.S. aircraft and engine OEMs. But there is another tale in Census’s trade data. Some nations have been increasing their imports from the U.S. much more rapidly than others.

Argentina, for example, almost doubled its aviation imports from the U.S. from 2021-22, a 90% increase. Peru’s $336 million in aviation buys represented a 70% increase from the preceding year.

The Dominican Republic nearly sextupled its U.S. aircraft, engine and parts buys, from $33 million in 2021 to $232 million in 2022.

Mexico, though second to Brazil in total U.S. purchases, grew faster than its southern rival, increasing purchases by 11% to Brazil’s 5%.

Colombia, a significant market, increased its aviation imports just 3%. And Panama cut its demand by more than 20% from 2021-22.

Both the size and trends in Latin markets are worth looking at closely for at least two reasons. First, U.S. carriers have been steadily shifting heavy airframe MRO to Latin America over the past two decades, limiting both the demand for U.S. mechanics and the opportunities for these workers. But the more U.S. aircraft are sold to Latin America, the more maintenance will have to be done on engines and many components in U.S. shops, countering the airframe shift.

Second, if U.S. aviation OEMs are restricted in exports to China for political reasons, they must fight vigorously for other markets. Latin America and India represent two of the most promising opportunities here.