The Mexican Airspace Fair (FAMEX) 2021 was moved at the last minute from the Querétaro Intercontinental Airport to the Military Base of Santa Lucía, north of Mexico City. Yesterday, the Mexican Government inaugurated the event, making a powerful fourth edition while showing the attending public a first glimpse of what’s becoming the new Mexico City Airport, also known as Felipe Angeles Airport (AIFA). Let’s have a tour through Mexico’s FAMEX 2021. 

FAMEX 2021 tour

This edition of FAMEX won’t surpass the 2019 rendition, not because of a lack of effort but the surrounding circumstances were not ideal. 

The COVID-19 pandemic delayed FAMEX 2021 from April to September; then, the local government of the Querétaro State canceled the fair on short notice. The Mexican army had to move FAMEX back to the Military Base of Santa Lucía. 

A tour through Mexico's FAMEX 2021

Photo: Daniel Martínez Garbuno

Nevertheless, it became an excellent opportunity for the government to showcase the new civil/military airport currently under construction there. 

The Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, held the opening remarks of FAMEX 2021 in front of the half-built Terminal 1 of the AIFA.

“This fair is an example that progress will continue, Mexico will continue to prosper, our country will continue to modernize, and it will be for the benefit of everyone because we seek modernity forged from below and to all,” López Obrador said. 

In the last few years, the Mexican aeronautical sector has grown around 14% annually. In 2019, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, it had exports worth US$9.7 billion, according to the Mexican Federation of Industry (Femia). Moreover, this year, FAMEX 2021 had the United States as its partner, showcasing the importance of the North American ally for Mexican development. 

What was seen at FAMEX 2021?

While going through FAMEX 2021, we could see many companies participating. Airbus was there, and it signed a few deals. For instance, Airbus announced it will launch a school for helicopter pilots in the southern Mexican peninsula of Yucatan later this year. This school aims to become a Latin American Mecca for future pilots. 

Additionally, the Mexican company Hydra Technologies announced a 90 million pesos investment to develop unmanned aerial systems. During FAMEX 2021, Hydra exposed an S45 HD aircraft and introduced its latest model, the S55. 

Grupo Aeromexico held a static exhibition of its famous Boeing 787-9, better known as ‘Quetzalcóatl.’ Additionally, the Mexican airline exhibited its first aircraft, a Stinson SR, which covered Aeromexico’s first route between Mexico City and Acapulco back on September 14, 1934. 

A glimpse of Mexico’s new airport

The Mexican Government will launch the AIFA on March 21, 2022. The new airport will work with the current Mexico City Airport and Toluca International Airport in a metropolitan system. 

Ideally, during the first phase of the AIFA, the metropolitan system will be able to handle approximately 80 million passengers per year. 

The AIFA is being built by the military. It has only been two years and a half since it was announced, after the cancelation of another hub, known back then as the New Mexico Airport. 

AIFA construction Mexico City

Photo: Daniel Martínez Garbuno.

Currently, the army has delivered approximately 70% of the AIFA’s first phase. Once that’s complete, the second phase will begin. According to members of the engineer squad building up the airport, this phase is set to be finished by 2036; the third and final phase is scheduled for completion in 2050. By that time, the metropolitan system of airports could handle up to 170 million passengers per year, becoming the super hub of Latin America. Or at least, that’s the plan.

Despite the public discourses, there are zero airlines lined up to fly from the AIFA. Moreover, the ground connectivity to the new airport is not complete. The hub is located north of Mexico City. It is at least an hour away by car in the best of conditions (if you’ve visited the Mexican capital, are extremely odd). There’s no public transportation system in place so far. 

Suppose the Mexican government can’t finish the infrastructure to improve the public transportation towards the new airport. In that case, it will be challenging for the airlines to keep a healthy and sustainable operation from the AIFA. 

In conclusion, while the architecture for the new airport is there and will be delivered on time, the Mexican government desperately needs to take action to avoid having a Mirabel Airport in its hands. Or rather, a second International Airport in its hands. Toluca International, that third piece of the metropolitan system equation, is a white elephant. 

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