Embraer Sets Sights Beyond 1,000th E-Jet Delivery

 - September 16, 2013, 10:55 AM
New “raked” wingtips on the E175 scheduled for introduction in the second quarter of next year now appear on two prototypes, one of which Embraer displayed last week in São Jose dos Campos, Brazil. (Photo: Gregory Polek)

A ceremony commemorating the delivery of the 1,000th Embraer E-Jet last Friday not only gave the Brazilian company a chance to celebrate the success of the past 10 years, but also to offer a glimpse at what it hopes proves an equally auspicious future. An E175 painted in American Eagle livery, the 1,000th airplane went to long-time customer Republic Airways. The company placed an order for 47 of the 76-seat airplanes at the beginning of the year and holds options on another 47.

Embraer’s relationship with Republic dates back to 1999, when subsidiary Chautauqua Airlines took delivery of its first ERJ-145 in the livery of US Airways Express. In 2008, Republic also received the 400th production E-Jet. Republic now operates 140 E-Jets.

By next year’s second quarter it expects to take the first E175 updated with a package of aerodynamic and systems improvements, including new wingtips designed to contribute the majority of an expected 5-percent fuel-burn reduction over the basic design. At its factory in São Jose dos Campos, Brazil, Embraer displayed one of the two prototypes to reporters for the first time. The program has now logged some 100 hours of flight-testing.

Reporting on the technical progress of Embraer’s E2 project the day before the delivery ceremonies, Embraer Commercial Aircraft COO Luis Carlos Affonso noted that the company decided to forego the interim wingtip modification on the E190 and E195 “a couple of months ago” largely because the E190 and E195 will derive the benefits from the E2 wingtips more quickly than would the E175. Scheduled to become the last of the three E2s to gain certification, the E175E2 will not enter service until at least 2020—more than five years after the interim improvements win their expected approval.

Republic Airways chairman and CEO Bryan Bedford said his airline’s technical evaluation confirmed a 5- to 5.5-percent fuel-burn improvement attributable to the new wingtips. He expressed dissatisfaction, however, with GE Aviation’s efforts toward engine-related efficiency improvements. “What’s missing is that we haven’t seen any fuel-efficiency improvement out of the powerplant,” said Bedford. “So we would certainly like to encourage our friends at General Electric to see what they can do to drive more fuel economy.”

Asked to gauge GE’s responsiveness, or lack thereof, Bedford demurred. “I wouldn’t say [they have reacted slowly] because they’re obviously a valuable partner of ours,” he said. “I wouldn’t call names. Maybe it’s an issue of focus. There’s a lot going on with Leap X. There’s been a lot going on with the GE90, putting powerplants on Dreamliners. Those are probably all the right priorities…But at some point this is a significant market and it’s going to need some attention.”