Venturing deeper into bizav, Embraer unveils two new jets

 - October 11, 2006, 4:25 AM

Embraer, which has sustained a presence in the business aviation market with the Legacy, a corporate version of its ERJ 135 regional jet, last month announced two clean-sheet additions to its business jet portfolio–a light jet and a very light jet (VLJ).

Although the Brazilian airframer’s VLJ is getting a late start into the fray–with service entry targeted for mid-2008–the company sees a global market for nearly 1,400 such aircraft in the next decade, a number that does not include the potential demand for 3,000 more VLJs if the air-limo concept becomes a reality.

With its light jet, Embraer is stepping into a well established segment where it will do battle with Cessna’s CJ3 and Encore, Raytheon’s Premier I and Hawker 400XP and the Learjet 40. Embraer expects its light jet to enter service in mid-2009.

Embraer hopes the two new business jets will be the beginning of a line that could encompass everything from VLJs to ultra-long-range aircraft.

“Our vision is to become a major player in the business aviation market within 10 years,” said Luis Carlos Affonso, senior v-p for the corporate aviation market. “The Legacy has paved the way for Embraer to build a name in the business aviation market,” added Mauricio Botelho, Embraer president and CEO.

VLJ and Light Jet Development

Both of the new jets will be powered by two Pratt & Whitney Canada turbofans. The VLJ will be powered by dual-FADEC PW617Fs (flat rated at 1,615 pounds of takeoff thrust), which are scheduled for certification in the fourth quarter of 2007. The light jet will be powered by the PW535E (flat rated at 3,200 pounds of thrust), also with dual-FADECs. That engine is slated for certification in mid-2008.

Quebec-based P&WC beat out Williams and GE/Honda in a competition to power the Embraer VLJ. In a May 17 teleconference, Botelho said Embraer’s choice of engines was based on several factors, including “performance, price, the ability [of the manufacturer] to serve the product and the company’s willingness to invest.” He said the P&WC engines came out best for Embraer’s needs.

The VLJ is a straight-wing design–which Affonso described as “very elegant”–that will carry as many as eight people (including the pilot). With four people on board, the $2.75 million aircraft (2005 dollars) will have a range of 1,160 nm (NBAA IFR reserves with 100-nm alternate) and a maximum operating speed of Mach 0.70. Its takeoff field length is 3,400 feet and the maximum operating altitude is 41,000 feet.

The VLJ will have a high-speed cruise of 380 knots, and its 5-foot 1-inch-wide cabin is wider than those of its competitors–the Eclipse 500, the Cessna Mustang and the Cessna CJ1. Its 4-foot 11-inch cabin height also exceeds that in all three competing aircraft.

The swept-wing light jet will accommodate up to nine people (including the pilot). With six people on board, the $6.65 million jet (2005 dollars) will have a range of 1,800 nm (NBAA IFR reserves with 100 nm alternate) with a maximum operating speed of Mach 0.78. Its takeoff field length is 3,700 feet and the ceiling is 45,000 feet.

The light jet will have a high-speed cruise of 450 knots. With the same cabin width and height as the VLJ model, Embraer’s light jet will have a smaller cabin than the Premier I and the same size cabin as the Learjet 40.

With an eye toward the nascent air-limo market, Embraer is designing both aircraft for high use and high availability.

The company has not selected the avionics packages, but there will be a commonality between both cockpits. The company said the docile flying qualities of the two new aircraft will enable single-pilot operations and an easy transition for less experienced pilots.

Embraer’s board of directors approved the projects in April with $235 million in funding by the partners, financial institutions and the company’s own coffers. Based on in-depth market assessments, Embraer has estimated a demand for approximately 3,000 very light, entry-level and light jets over the next decade, excluding the air-limo market. During the teleconference, Botelho said that number could double if the air-limo concept gains acceptance.

Botelho expects the largest number of sales for his new products in North America, where “the success or failure” of the venture will be measured. He added that he considers the owner-flown market to be the largest target segment, “by far.” Other applications include traditional flight departments and fractional operations. Embraer tested concept aircraft and six are under further evaluation.