Embraer has given its clearest indication to date that won’t stand by and watch competitors from Canada, the U.S., Europe, China, Japan and Russia share respective pieces of the next-generation narrowbody market without any challenge from Brazil. The company will, in fact, decide on the platform for a new aircraft program by the end of this year, executive vice president Mauro Kern told AIN on Wednesday. Kern’s revelation came just days after the company announced the establishment of a new division called New Programs-Airline Market to explore options for a successor to its E-Jet line of 70- to 110-seat airliners.
Embraer will initially staff the new division with between 30 and 40 employees, Kern said, then expand it to employ “in the hundreds” by the time the company decides on a new platform by year-end. Recruited to lead the new division full time, Kern last served as Embraer’s executive vice president for the airline market–a position he filled for now CEO Frederico Curado when Curado took over the reins of the company when Mauricio Botelho retired.
“It looks like we’re coming closer on a decision on what to do next,” said Kern. “And [the new division] is about bringing more energy and focus to that.”
Much will depend, he said, not only on the results of technical studies, but also on talks with potential suppliers and risk-sharing partners. Kern would not talk in terms of the level of investment Embraer will need to commit, nor would he say whether the project would require the construction of a new plant. He did issue an estimate of the market timing, however, indicating that the new airplane would likely reach customers between the middle and the second half of this decade.
The latest organizational changes at Embraer come at a time new aircraft offerings appear to have left no segment of the market from 100 to 220 seats uncovered, particularly if Boeing and Airbus choose to re-engine their respective single-aisle jets. Embraer’s perennial rival–Canada’s Bombardier–has staked a claim to the 110- to 145-seat segment with the Pratt & Whitney PW1000G-powered C Series, while China’s Comac takes direct aim at Boeing and Airbus with the 150- to 190-seat C919, powered by CFM’s new Leap-X.
Curado had expressed some skepticism about the Pratt entry when it emerged on the scene as the Geared Turbofan. However, Embraer otherwise had kept exceedingly quiet about its engine preference or even the class of airplane it hopes to eventually pursue. The company has talked of developing a larger model to compete with Bombardier’s C Series, stretching the existing E195 airframe or even perhaps introducing a new large regional turboprop.
Kern still wouldn’t identify the most likely scenario, but he did note that recent market trends have curtailed interest in a turboprop somewhat. Although he said that studies continue into turboprop platforms, Embraer’s first concern will likely center on how best to approach the 100- to 120-seat jet market, as well as a strategy for addressing the segments covered by the C Series and potentially re-engined Boeing and Airbus narrowbodies.
“As time passes the scenarios are becoming more clear in terms of what our competitors are doing or intend to do,” Kern said. “And the technology scenarios–the engine manufacturers’ visions and ideas and willingness and aggressiveness–this is all becoming more and more clear.”