Introduced in 2004, Embraer's E-Jet family in ordinary circumstances should produce market demand for at least 20 years. But the fact that engine technology has developed faster and more convincingly than Embraer CEO Fred Curado had imagined only a couple of years ago raises the question of whether the airplanes will need an upgrade to reach their lifespan potential. Promising as much as a 15-percent improvement in fuel burn, new engines could reduce operating costs by 5- to 6 percent, Curado told AIN.
Hence, Embraer has engaged in serious talks with the three possible contenders-Pratt & Whitney, about its PW1000G Pure Power; GE, about a version of the new Leap-X, now under development by the Snecma-GE CFM partnership; and, of course, Rolls-Royce, which in late May celebrated the successful running of the latest core engine build in its E3E (efficiency, environment, economy) two-shaft research program.
Curado had long expressed reservations about the PW1000G, once known as the Geared Turbofan (GTF), but he has more recently articulated a less pessimistic view, due mainly to all the successful testing the engine has undergone both in the air and on the ground. “I've always tried to be very sober on this issue,” he said. “One thing I have to say, however, the level of comfort, not only [on the part of] ourselves but in the market, about the potential for the GTF is increasing,” he added. “There's hard data; there's much more evidence now to support their contentions than a year ago.”
Meanwhile, the company continues to study the possibility of a so-called “clean-sheet” airplane that would compete with the Bombardier CS300, the larger of the two C Series models, as well as the Airbus A319 and Boeing 737-700. In fact, depending on the availability of the needed resources and the demand Embraer finds, the company could develop both a re-engining program for the E-Jets and an all-new airplane simultaneously, said Curado. “They're not exclusive to each other,” he said. “It could be both. Of course, besides all the market analysis…resources are also important.”
One might assume that Embraer's decision to re-engine the E-Jets could depend on whether the C Series renders its E190/195 obsolete. But notwithstanding the serious effort Embraer has committed to studying new engine possibilities, Curado said the E190 and E195 as they now exist can compete effectively against the C Series CS100. “We believe the 195 as it is today is a pretty competitive airplane,” he said. “I've always been very clear, and I still have my opinion, that the smaller C Series is a direct competitor to our 195.”