Embraer in Running for Comair Business

 - February 5, 2007, 5:52 AM

Embraer appears to hold a surprisingly strong position in a contest with Bombardier to supply more 70-seat jets to Comair after new president Fred Buttrell issued an apparent endorsement of the Brazilian 70-seater in a letter to employees. Now flying 137 fifty-seat Bombardier CRJ200s and 27 CRJ700s, Comair would take another 10 CRJ200s and as many as 25 seventy-seaters if pilots agree to wage freezes and a one-year contract extension.

Last month the pilots committee signed a tentative deal to freeze salaries of all except first-year pilots, who would see their pay frozen at their second-year rate. Meanwhile, a so-called seat-lock clause would cut Comair’s training costs by keeping pilots in their current airplane type for 30 months.

Buttrell characterized Comair’s decision to take CRJs in the early 1990s as groundbreaking and expressed a desire to take another “innovative step” with the Brazilian 70-seaters. Of course, Comair would have to pay a steep commonality penalty for adding another type to the fleet, and a Comair spokesman said that Buttrell’s comments in no way disqualify the CRJ700. Even Embraer commercial vice president Fred Curado wouldn’t admit that Embraer holds an edge over Bombardier, insisting his company faces a tough fight for the busine