Embraer plans to expand its bizav offerings

 - October 31, 2006, 9:45 AM

Riding the wave created by the success of its 50-seat regional jet program (now on the wane as the regional airlines evolve toward larger aircraft), Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer has set its sights on becoming a major player in the business aviation market to bolster its move into building larger regional airliners (the 170 and 190 lines).

The company has enjoyed robust sales of the Legacy, a business jet based on its ERJ 135 airliner, but at the Latin American Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition last month, company president Mauricio Botelho announced a decision to launch a new business jet or series of business jets in the coming months that would “likely” be below the Legacy in the business aircraft food chain.

Before the show, the company had acknowledged that it would be in a stronger position if it had more products to offer, but it would not comment on whether any new products would be larger or smaller than the Legacy.

“We plan to become a major player in executive aviation within the next 10 years,” declared Botelho.

If the decision was momentous, the details were minimal. Botelho indicated that two models are under consideration–one will likely be in the midsize category, and the other a very light jet (VLJ)–and he did not rule out development of a larger business jet based on the 170/190 series of jetliners. As for the very light jet, Botelho said it would be one of Embraer’s own design and not the product of a partnership with an existing company already well into development of a VLJ.

Botelho also revealed the appointment of Luis Carlos Affonso, who headed the company’s 170/190 regional jet program, as the new senior v-p for corporate aviation.

Embraer expects very light jets will make up about 70 percent of business aircraft deliveries over the next 10 years and that the Latin American market is good for about 5 percent of those deliveries.

Despite some observers’ concerns that Embraer is arriving late to the party in developing a VLJ, Botelho expressed confidence that the company will be a leader in whatever industry segment it decides to enter. “We are used to competition and are committed to providing the best options for our clients,” said Affonso.

Legacy Improvements

According to Affonso, 49 Embraer Legacys are in service in 12 countries, not counting three recent sales to Harrods of London, Naturelink of South Africa and Belgian charter operator Boutsen. With the continued growth in sales, Embraer has launched a program to upgrade the Legacy.

Improvements include certification above 41,000 feet, better short-field performance and greater range. The cabin is also getting a makeover, with pleated window shades, LED lighting and high-speed Internet access through Inmarsat’s Swift64.

Affonso noted that 80 percent of Legacy production is spoken for through year-end. The company anticipates the airplane will have a 15-percent market share in the super-midsize category by the end of the year and expects to see more than 250 Legacys in service by 2010.

Embraer also announced it has named Boutsen Aviation a sales representative for Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Monaco and the French Cote d’Azur.