Embraer considers developing new aircraft for bizav

 - February 2, 2007, 8:39 AM

Embraer’s corporate aviation division is preparing to present the business case for one or more new aircraft programs, with the hope of getting a development green light from the Brazilian group’s top management before the end of June. “We have analyzed several different options covering almost all segments of the market and now we will try to get approval from our investors,” senior v-p for the corporate aviation market Antônio Pires Monteiro told AIN.

For the time being, Embraer’s sole offering to business aviation is the super-midsize Legacy, which is derived from its ERJ-135/145 series of regional jets. Monteiro acknowledged that the company would be in a stronger position if it had a broader range of products to offer, especially since it currently has no entry-level equipment with which to lure newcomers.

However, until the board has considered the various product proposals, Embraer is declining to comment on whether any new developments will fall below or above the Legacy in the business aircraft food chain. In particular, it has not responded to recent speculation that it might even offer a new very light jet contender. And while Monteiro emphasized the economic advantages of basing business aircraft on existing airliners, he said it should not necessarily be assumed that the company will base any new model on the larger Embraer 170s and 190s.

However, in late January, Embraer did launch new advanced range (AR) versions of its 100- and 110-seat 190 and 195 jets (see February, page 3). Carrying full passenger loads, these will offer ranges of 2,300 nm and 2,100 nm, respectively. With smaller payloads, they could offer even greater range.

Meanwhile, Embraer is continuing to improve the Legacy itself. A new service ceiling of 41,000 feet should be certified by the end of this month and apply to new-production aircraft soon after.

Cabin Improvements for the Legacy
By the end of this year, new and existing Legacy customers will be able to opt for LED cabin lighting instead of the existing fluorescent lights. The LED lights can be dimmed more smoothly and allow for independent adjustment of the light in separate sections of the Legacy cabin. The lights, which weigh less and are more reliable than the current lights, can also offer combinations of white light and other colors.

Cabin lighting conditions can also be improved with new pleated window shades, which allow passengers to regulate the amount of natural light entering the cabin through the aircraft’s 22 windows. The shades, which use a combination of composite and lightweight transparencies, can block out 100 percent of natural light and provide protection from ultraviolet rays.

Wireless high-speed data connections should be available to Legacy operators
by the end of June, with Embraer preparing to offer the connection through Inmarsat’s Swift64 Mobile Network, which will provide connectivity rates of up to 432 kbps when the new I4 satellites are functioning by the end of the year. The service, which will improve in-flight Internet connections, e-mail, file transfers and video conferences, will be based on Chelton’s HSD 7000 high-speed data system, including the HGA-7000 high-gain antenna.

The airframer hopes to install the first high-speed data connection by the end of the second quarter. It has not yet announced an installation price for the system, which it will offer through a Service Bulletin.

Embraer has also been working to make the Legacy more cost-effective to operate. From the start of this year, two of the four scheduled maintenance checks are visual inspections that do not require ground support equipment. The manufacturer has estimated that this and other improvements to the maintenance process reduce by 5 percent the labor costs associated with supporting each aircraft–in addition to
the 18-percent reduction previously achieved since the model entered service in 2002.

There are now 20 authorized Legacy service centers worldwide. The most recent additions to the network were three of Jet Aviation’s U.S. facilities in Teterboro, N.J.;
Bedford, Mass.; and Dallas.

Embraer has delivered almost 50 Legacys, and the aircraft are in service in 12 countries. Most of the fleet is based in the U.S. and Europe, but the company has also delivered aircraft to Brazil, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the Ukraine, Mexico and the Chinese territory of Macão. To date, only three Legacys have been sold in Latin America, all to Brazilian customers.

Monteiro indicated that production rates for this year will likely increase from the 13 delivered both last year and in 2003. The aircraft are built at the company’s São José dos Campos headquarters in Brazil, with a maximum production rate of between 18 and 20 airplanes.

The aircraft are delivered fully completed by Embraer. This year, the airframer is taking over production of interior cabinetry from Duncan Aviation and Nordam. Monteiro said that while Embraer is perfectly satisfied with the suppliers’ work, it wants to have greater flexibility in the production process by completing this stage in-house.

The Legacy comes in two configurations. The executive version, which accounts for about three-quarters of aircraft delivered, seats up to 16 passengers and is priced at $22.45 million fully completed. The higher-density shuttle version costs between $16.95 million and $17.65 million.

With a 1,410-cu-ft cabin and 240 cu ft of baggage space, the Legacy boasts one of the more generous real estate offerings in the super-midsize business jet class. Monteiro said that this factor– as well as the aircraft’s price and reliability–is attractive to customers who might have been drawn to existing models in the large class, but who didn’t necessarily need the greater range offered by types such as the Gulfstream G550 and Bombardier Global Express.

The Legacy can provide a maximum range of 3,250 nm, with eight passengers and NBAA IFR reserves. Powered by a pair of Rolls-Royce AE3007 turbofans, it cruises at speeds of up to Mach 0.80. The cockpit is equipped with the Honeywell Primus 1000 avionics suite.