From Togo to France to the Fiji Islands, Brazilian-made jets and passenger planes are leaving marks from Amazonian rubber on the landing strips of five continents.
Starting from scratch only 10 years ago, Brazil's state-controlled airplane company Embraer is now the world's sixth largest general airplane manufacturer, and the only non-American among the top 10.
The jackrabbit growth of Brazil's aircraft industry is part of a silent, decade-long industrial surge that last year brought Brazil's manufactured exports over the level of primary exports, a traditional indicator of development.
Although Embraer is forced to import an average of 65 percent of parts for each plane -- engines, propellers, electrical components and aluminum sheets -- its planes remain competitive worldwide because Embraer's 5,300 workers receive low wages. Line workers earn $150-$225 a month, less than their American counterparts make in a week.
Last month Americans felt the bite when Embraer elbowed aside Cessna aircraft and Beech aircraft to win a $50 million contract to sell 41 Brazilian-designed Xingus to the French military.
Based in this industrial city one hour outside Sao Paulo, Embraer last year turned out 418 planes, ranging from a Brazilian-designed crop duster to an Italian-designed jet trainer.
Brazilian planes now fly in 20 countries, including the United States, where 12 commuter lines fly the 19-seat "Bandeirante." In one of Embraer's cavernous hangars here, the finishing touches recently were being put on Bandeirantes marked "Cascade," "Midsouth" and "Tennessee."
Nicknamed the "bandit" by American pilots, the turboprop Bandeirante began rolling off assembly lines at a time when skyrocketing oil prices started forcing local commuter operators to abandon jets.
"We were lucky," admitted Embraer spokesman Mario Leme Galvao recently. "The Bandeirante arrived on the market at just the right time," since Turboprops use 30 to 40 percent less fuel than jets.
Aiming for a larger slice of the commuter market, Embraer is betting on a sleek, needle-nosed plane baptized the "Brasilia." Designed to handle four 100-mile hops without refueling, this 30-passenger turboprop is to go on sale in 1984.
Critics says this will be the moment of truth for the Brazilian airplane industry. The Canadian De Havilland, the Swedish Saab and the French Aerospatiale have all unveiled plans for similar-sized turboprops for the mid-1980s.
The Brazilian predict fierce international competition, but already have 116 signed options to buy the Brasilia -- 50 from American companies. And, keeping their assembly line running 20 hours a day, they are plunging ahead with other models.
Next year, Embraer plans to put on sale a $900,000 bubble-topped military trainer, the first turboprop with ejectable seats. Called the T27, the plane will be at the Paris Air Show this June.
Last month, the Brazalian and Italian governments established a joint research program for the mutual production of a $10 million air combat and ground attack jet capable of doing 700 miles an hour.
Called the AMX, Brazilians see this jet as another step toward independence for their air force. Today, only three years after breaking a long-standing military supply accord with the United States, 65 percent of the planes patrolling Brazil's airspace bear the label "Made in Brazil."
Brazil is to provide 30 percent of the capital for the AMX, and with this deal they hope through the Italians to win access to the NATO market.
With an eye to the lucrative European civilian aircraft market, Brazilian and Portuguese officials signed a "protocol of intentions" last month that calls for using cheap Portuguese labor to assemble Brazilian planes in Portugal for sale to Common Market countries.
With Latin America's only significant airplane industry, and helped by cheap delivery costs and government loans, Brazilians also have found a natural market for their planes on their own continent. Helibras, Brazil's infant helicopter company, has sold a third of its recent production to Latin American buyers.
With isolated ranches and towns sprinkled through the interior high plains and the Amazonian jungle, Brazil -- the fifth largest country in the world -- itself has enormous potential for small commuter and executive aircraft.
When burned last month on the French deal, U.S. general aviation companies still were smarting over the closing of the Brazilian internal market five years ago.
But the doors to imports effectively slammed shut in 1974 when Piper aircraft won a licensing competition to make light planes at the Embraer plant. Today, two-thirds of the Enbraer production consists of Piper models.