Embraer Rides ‘Next Wave’ of E2 Development

 - June 13, 2015, 3:55 AM
A wing subassembly for the E190 E2 rests in its tooling at Embraer’s “center of excellence” in Evora, Portugal, before shipment to Brazil.

Now that the Embraer E2 program has entered its systems integration phase in earnest, program managers can start to turn their attention toward final assembly of the first of three family members–the Pratt & Whitney PW1900G-powered E190 E2–at the company’s main plant in São José dos Campos, Brazil, “in a few months.”

Speaking with AIN just ahead of the start of the Paris Air Show, Embraer Commercial Aviation COO Luis Carlos Affonso reported that the 106-seat airplane’s first wing spars had just arrived in Brazil from the company’s metallics “center of excellence” in Evora, Portugal, and that the upper and lower skins would follow in a matter of days. The deliveries marked an important milestone for a program whose promise of 16-percent fuel-burn improvement depends largely on newly designed wings, notwithstanding common references to the E2 as a re-engining exercise.

Very soon we’ll be assembling the wings here in São José dos Campos,” said Affonso, who noted that one important change in the production process will involve the location of wing assembly. Now building what it now calls the E1’s wings at its plant in Gaviao Peixoto, Brazil, Embraer has decided to move the function for all three E2 models to its main plant in São José dos Campos to help streamline the production system and reduce logistics and inventory costs. Originally a site occupied by former E-Jet wing producer Kawasaki, the Gaviao Peixoto plant has belonged to Embraer ever since it assumed responsibility for wing assembly in 2006.

Other subassemblies now in São José dos Campos include the forward fuselage and the lower center fuselage section 2. In France, Latecoere’s work on the passenger and emergency exit doors has progressed well, said Affonso, while, in Spain, Aernnova has nearly finished building the first empennage.

Responsible not only for systems integration and final assembly but also for fabrication of a high proportion of the airplane’s structural components, Embraer builds the E2’s wings, some 75-percent of the fuselage and the landing gear. Fuselage subassembly suppliers include Triumph, which builds the sections just aft of the wings and ahead of the empennage. Other suppliers and partners include Liebherr, control systems for flaps and slats; Rockwell Collins, horizontal stabilizer control system; UTC Aerospace Systems, wheels, brakes, APU, electrical system; Intertechnique, engine and APU fuel feed, pressure refueling, fuel transfer, fuel tank inerting and ventilation, and fuel gauging and control; and Crane Aerospace & Electronics, electronic control module for landing gear, brake control systems and proximity sensors.

Apart from the switch in engines from the GE CF34s used in the E1s to the Pratt geared turbofans in the E2s, what Affonso termed important supplier changes included the switch from UTAS to Liebherr for the engine bleed air system. Others involved the award for pilot seats to England’s Ipeco in place of Zodiac. Affonso also said that Embraer decided to “verticalize” its structural supply base, taking responsibility for the forward fuselage section 1 and center fuselage 3 from Latecoere, for example.

Extensive Design Changes

Although Embraer (Chalet 393) promotes the principle of cockpit and systems architecture commonality between the current E-Jets and the E2s for an easy transition from an operational standpoint, the company will enjoy little production commonality due to the fairly extensive design changes. Consequently, the company has had to install all-new rigs, and face a challenging three- to four-year period during which production of the current E-Jet and E2 variants will overlap.

Test rig construction and operation has advanced as planned, said Affonso, both in São José dos Campos and, perhaps most notably, 12 miles away in Eugenio de Melo, where Embraer performs ground testing such as static, fatigue, iron bird and environmental control analysis. “All of those rigs are well advanced, some of them fully operational and others still, let’s say in a progressive way, they are getting more and more complete,” said Affonso.

Now programming the E2’s flight control laws, Embraer has started the process of integrating software code into fly-by-wire hardware made by Moog, which carries responsibility for the primary controls and spoilers. Other contributors to the fly-by-wire system include Belgium’s Sonaca (flaps and slats) and Germany’s Liebherr (flight control system). Full fly-by-wire constitutes one of the program’s most conspicuous advances over the current generation of E-Jets, which uses traditional controls for its ailerons. As a result, engineers could reduce the sizes of the family’s empennages, helping to cut drag.

Affonso stressed that although E2 development marks Embraer’s first application of full fly-by-wire in an airliner, it has gained valuable experience integrating such systems in the Legacy 500 business jet and the KC-390 tanker. “In both cases we developed the control laws,” he said. “So even though fly-by-wire systems are always are often challenging…in this case, given those other two programs, we consider this a low-risk development.”

In fact, Embraer has now passed the point in development at which any particular aspect of design represents a so-called watch item, said Affonso. Although a few assembly drawings remain unreleased, it has virtually completed detailed design. Completion of fabrication, systems test and integration and preparation for flight test lay ahead, but Affonso expressed satisfaction with the company’s progress in all areas as it looks toward scheduled delivery of the first E190 E2 in the first half of 2018.

There really are no areas of concern,” he said. “I would say we are past the big challenges in the physical airplane. But the next phase we are entering right now really is the systems integration phase, so that’s the key phase now that the components are getting ready and our rigs are up and running. This is the next wave, let’s put it that way.”