Embraer Carefully Considers its Single-Aisle Options

 - May 16, 2011, 7:39 AM
Embraer executive vice president for the airline market Paulo Cesar de Souza e Silva (Photo: Embraer)

Embraer will wait until as late as year-end for Boeing to decide on a plan for a 737 replacement before the Brazilian company commits to a successor for its own E-Jet series, according to Embraer executive vice president for the airline market Paulo Cesar de Souza e Silva. Still, Embraer already knows what it will not do–namely, follow Bombardier into a size and range category that, in Silva’s estimation, the Airbus A320neo also occupies.

“We believe the [Bombardier] C Series proposition, in terms of range, is too much,” said Silva. “Airlines won’t pay for something they will not use.”

At 3,400 nautical miles, the range of the Bombardier CS300 also places it in a weight category that too closely approaches that of the A320neo, said Silva. Now studying an airplane in the 130- to 150-seat category, Embraer would distinguish its product largely by offering a less range-capable but lighter airplane. “I think the sweet spot is about 2,400 nautical miles,” said the Embraer executive. “Some 95 percent of the narrowbody flying in the world is within 1,800 nautical miles.”

Silva said Embraer’s options have now boiled down to whether it introduces a relatively lightweight 130- to 150-seat jet or re-engines the current 70- to 120-seat E-Jet line. However, as Silva noted, Embraer’s growth in the airliner segment won’t come from the segment of the market it already serves.

“If we want to [expand] the company, we definitely will have to move upwards,” he said. “By changing the E-Jets we’re not changing the size of this market…And we continue to have the view that the E-Jet is a modern product with up-to-date [systems]…But, of course, we have to look ahead.”

In fact, Embraer appears to favor waiting until the end of the decade to re-engine the E-Jets, after it introduces an all-new product in the 130- to 150-seat category. “In this case we would definitely postpone [a re-engining project],” said Silva.

Although Boeing continues to entertain the option of re-engining the 737, that company’s CEO, Jim McNerney, has signaled that “the bias” remains on an all-new airplane by 2019 or 2020 and, unlike Airbus COO for customers John Leahy, Embraer executives appear prepared to believe him. Of a 737 re-engining project, Silva said “This is an unlikely scenario, I think.”