NBAA Convention News

Embraer ready to take on major bizav players

 - October 5, 2008, 3:27 PM

It was just a few short years ago that Embraer, with only one business jet in its stable and the market for 50-seat regional jets maturing, made the decision to suit-up for the business jet game. Now, at NBAA 2008, nobody doubts that this Brazilian manufacturer is pursuing its campaign as fiercely, and successfully, as it fought Bombardier et al for RJ sales.

In the interim, demand for 50-seat regional jets moved swiftly from maturity to hospice, underscoring early for Embraer the wisdom of its strategy to penetrate business aviation. The ERJ 135-based Legacy 600, Embraer’s original business jet, has done well with the “super-super-midsize” cabin, and now the marque has expanded to five more offerings–the Phenom 100 VLJ, Phenom 300 light jet, Legacy 450 “midlight,” Legacy 500 midsize and E190 airliner-based Legacy 1000.

This formerly nationalized company was teetering on the brink of collapse in the mid-1990s until revitalized by the appointment of Mauricio Botelho as president. Embraer is now a powerhouse and widely regarded as mighty Cessna’s most formidable threat.

Embraer holds a considerable, albeit two-edged, advantage by entering business aviation with a clean CAD/CAM screen. The Brazilians can tailor the configuration of their contenders to today’s market using the latest design and construction techniques, as opposed to the matrix that has served Cessna so well since the Fanjet 500 started the Citation phenomenon in 1970–pursuing every conceivable niche with derivatives using existing tooling and certification bases.

The Cessna approach is good for the bottom line, but Embraer is now at the stage where, for dizzying development costs ($1.5 billion for the five jets currently under development and their support infrastructure, according to Luis Carlos Affonso, executive v-p of executive jets), it can capitalize on new aerodynamic techniques and structural-material advances to step ahead of the derivative pack and position itself to thrive in the years ahead.

As aircraft marketers are wont to do, Embraer has generated a graph, distributed here at NBAA, that puts the Legacy 450 and 500 ahead of the midsize/super-midsize pack as it stood last week (Bombardier Challenger 300, Hawker Beechcraft Hawker 4000, Gulfstream G200 and G150, Cessna Citation X, Sovereign and XLS+, Bombardier Learjet 85, 60XR, 45XR, and Hawker 900XP, 850XP and 750) in terms of price versus “productivity index,” defined as range with four passengers multiplied by cruise Mach multiplied by cabin volume divided by takeoff field length.

The G250, announced here yesterday, was too new to be considered by Embraer, but a company official told NBAA Convention News that the new Gulfstream would “fit between our Legacy 500 and Legacy 600.”