Boeing, Embraer Explore New Areas of Cooperation

 - April 16, 2012, 10:40 AM
Embraer chief executive Frederico Curado (l) and Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Jim Albaugh celebrate the signing of a broad new accord between their companies. (Photo: Embraer)

Embraer left no doubt about its lack of interest in challenging Boeing any time soon in the hotly contested narrowbody market segment, when the two companies announced last week they had entered a loosely defined “cooperation agreement” calling for a joint effort to “enhance operational efficiency, safety and productivity, improve customer satisfaction and create value for both companies and their customers.” Specific areas of cooperation include research and technology efforts and the development of sustainable aviation biofuels.

Embraer CEO Frederico Curado and Boeing Commercial Airplanes boss Jim Albaugh signed the agreement during a visit by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff to the U.S. and following the annual meeting of the U.S.-Brazil CEO Forum, a public-private partnership between the two governments that “brings together” chief executive officers from both countries. Curado and Albaugh serve as co-chairmen of the CEO forum’s aviation subcommittee.

This latest agreement expands on a July 2011 announcement by the two companies of plans to jointly fund an analysis of opportunities to produce sustainable aviation jet fuel from sugarcane. In March 2012, Boeing, Embraer and Airbus announced a memorandum of understanding to work together on the development of so-called drop-in, affordable aviation biofuels.

Speaking at an April 10 press briefing in Washington, D.C., Curado expressed satisfaction with the reciprocal nature of the latest agreement. “It really honors us that this is not an agreement [per se]; it’s a give and take,” said Curado. “Again, this flatters us, in the sense that we have some interesting coincidences like, for example, the conceptual designs of our cockpits are similar to theirs…the designs of Boeing and Embraer have interesting similarities. We see today that with the advance of avionics, [in] safety, of course, the awareness of the pilots, the man-machine interface…that’s a lot of things going on. We are spending a lot of resources in studying those things and Boeing is obviously [doing] the same. So, yeah, there are possibilities.”

Curado would not venture comment on any specific areas of cooperation, however, emphasizing the broad nature and early stage of the agreement. “We are just establishing a path forward,” he said. “So as we advance and come up with something which can be a breakthrough or a new feature or something, of course we’ll bring it all to the public. But it is an issue just to recognize that both players are investing in resources in the same areas and there could be some cross-benefit for sharing, work-sharing, learning and so forth.”