NBAA Convention News

Phenom plant continues to take shape in Florida

 - October 13, 2009, 12:32 PM

Embraer began site preparation last month at Melbourne (Fla.) International Airport for a $51 million aircraft assembly and delivery center. A ceremonial ground-breaking was held for the 150,000-sq-ft plant in January, and its design received governmental approvals in May.

Construction begins even as Embraer has reduced its annual research-and-development budget by $100 million and plans to eliminate 20 percent of its workforce, mainly in response in a dramatic drop in demand for its commercial aircraft. During the second quarter of this year, the OEM delivered 56 aircraft–35 regional airliners and 21 executive jets (including 15 Phenom 100s). Its $8 million, 30-year lease on 25 acres–with an option for 70 more–at Melbourne came with a lot of incentives, including waiver of the first year’s lease payment.

The Melbourne plant is expected to employ 200 eventually and have a payroll of $10 million. The site will feature a customer delivery and acceptance center as well as a customer design center for the company’s entire line of business jets, not just the Phenom 100s and 300s that will be assembled there beginning in 2011. Annual production at the site is expected to ramp up to 170 aircraft per year in the future.
The design center will house full-scale cabin mockups and 3-D computer design systems and is seen as an important part of Embraer’s sales efforts, a central strategy of which is to offer more interior choices than those of its competitors.

On the Phenom 100, that translates into seven interior color palettes, three different cabinet finishes, carpet or wood floors, choice of carpet or fabric for the lower sidewalls, and three different cabin layouts.

On the larger Phenom 300 there are even more choices, including either a full wardrobe or a sink in the lavatory; optional wine rack; and a diverse menu of colors, fabrics and plating plus 14 different colors for the passenger seats.

As with the Phenoms, Embraer is expected to offer an unprecedented amount of interior color and fabric choices on the super midsize Legacy 450 and large-cabin Legacy 500 due for introduction in 2013 and 2012, respectively. The company’s clear aim is to give small and medium jet customers a big-jet buying experience, and a modern design center is an important part of creating that experience.

Melbourne is one of the largest components in Embraer’s $100 million global customer support construction initiative announced in 2006. In the U.S. that includes the recent construction of new company-owned service and support centers at Fort Lauderdale, Phoenix-Mesa Gateway and Bradley International (Windsor Locks, Conn.) airports. However, the OEM temporarily closed the $10 million, 47,700-sq-ft Connecticut facility in August, less than a year after it opened, citing weak demand. Plans call for it possibly to reopen next year after more Phenoms have been delivered in the region.

Embraer delivered 20 Phenom 100s through July and plans to deliver 110 by year-end. The Phenom 300 is scheduled for initial customer deliveries later this year. The company is also moving aggressively to globalize its owned manufacturing base. Earlier this summer, it broke ground on a 161,000-sq-ft composite airframe components plant in Evora, Portugal.