Embraer plans more business jets

 - September 18, 2006, 10:40 AM

Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer left no doubt that it plans to become a major player in the business aviation market over the next decade. During the company’s annual analyst and investor meeting held last month, executive jets senior v-p Luis Carlos Affonso maintained that, despite being a latecomer to the very light and light business jet segments, Embraer will prevail by offering “truly revolutionary products and outstanding product support.”

In the near term, the company’s growth engine will be its Phenom 100 VLJ and the derivative Phenom 300 light jet. Longer term, Embraer is considering executive versions of its 170 and 190 airliners, but Affonso revealed that his company is looking at a dedicated platform for “a large, long-range business jet.” While the manufacturer’s light and super-midsize jets have the Phenom and Legacy monikers, respectively, a spokeswoman said Embraer’s large business jets would follow suit and have another, as yet unannounced name.

Fueling the business aviation expansion, Affonso said, is the burgeoning world economy, the reduction in available first-class airline seats and increased door-to-door time for those using the airlines. He expects a jump in annual business aircraft deliveries from 749 last year to a projected 1,100 in 2015 and estimates that about a quarter of these deliveries over the next 10 years will be VLJs.

This year, Embraer’s business jet division has started off strong by delivering four Legacy 600s during the first quarter–twice as many as it shipped in the same period last year. According to Affonso, Legacy deliveries increased by 54 percent last year to 20 aircraft, giving the company 13-percent market share of the super-midsize segment. This year, he said, Legacy shipments are predicted to be about 25 aircraft, boosting Embraer’s segment market share to a forecast 15 percent.

According to Embraer’s production schedule, the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW617F-powered Phenom 100 will enter service in mid-2008, while the $6.65 million Phenom 300 will follow about a year later. The spokeswoman told AIN that first metal would be cut for the Phenom 100 by this month, with first flight scheduled for the first quarter of next year. The VLJ’s introductory price of $2.75 million has been extended until the end of this month; thereafter it will be $2.85 million.

Affonso said both Phenom jets will offer premium comfort, outstanding performance and low operating costs while being designed for high utilization. He noted that the Phenom 100’s 55 cu ft of baggage space dwarfs that of the Eclipse 500 and Adam A700 by about 30 cu ft, the Citation Mustang by nearly 20 cu ft and the Beech King Air C90GT (marketed by Raytheon as a twin-turboprop alternative to the VLJs) by seven cubic feet.

Further, the Phenom 100’s cabin length is matched only by that of the $4.18 million CJ1+, $2.25 million A700 and $2.95 million C90GT, and its cabin height and width, says Embraer, beat those of any aircraft on this list, not to mention the other VLJs. Affonso said competing aircraft are also hard-pressed to offer the value and performance of the Phenom 100.

While he wouldn’t reveal the backlog for the VLJ, the executive jets division v-p said the next available delivery slot for the Phenom 100 is May 2010. This high demand has prompted Embraer to consider increasing production rates for the VLJ in 2009 and 2010.

The nine-seat Phenom 300–while also besting the light-jet competition in baggage capacity, cabin space and, largely, performance–hasn’t yet enjoyed the hot sales of its smaller sibling.

“This is because the light-jet segment is already mature and the VLJ segment is just emerging,” Affonso explained. “Also, the Phenom 300 won’t enter service until 2009, though customers can take delivery of a competing light jet almost immediately. However, we believe that customers will realize the value that the Phenom 300 offers as the aircraft gets closer to certification.”

Affonso said Embraer is expected to reveal the order book for the Phenoms this summer, “after letters of intent from several fleet operators are converted into firm orders.” One such letter of intent is believed to be from a U.S.-based fractional operator, with a pending order announcement expected this month at EBACE.