Singapore Air Show

Embraer Sees Industry Evolution Favoring Turboprop, E-Jets

 - February 14, 2022, 4:30 PM
Embraer Commercial Aviation CEO Arjan Meijer (left) and Asia Pacific vice president Raul Villaron see long-term structural changes to the industry favoring its narrowbody lineup. (Photo: David McIntosh)

Embraer’s substantial presence at the Singapore Airshow reflects a belief in how the structural transformation the Covid pandemic has brought to the Asia-Pacific market will benefit its product line, today and in the future. Speaking with AIN at the Changi Exhibition Center just ahead of the show’s opening, Embraer Commercial Aviation CEO Arjan Meijer and vice president of Asia-Pacific Raul Villaron expressed a conviction in the company’s ability to position itself for the long-term changes resulting from the turmoil the world has endured over the past two years.

“There are a lot of angles post-crisis that will change the behavior of people…whether it’s regionalization or the sustainability impact or [virtual] meetings,” said Meijer. “If you look at the banking crisis in 2008 [and] the way we used data before and after that, the change was already happening…it just accelerated. And that’s what we see now as well. We won’t come out of the crisis as we went into it, that’s for sure.”

While Embraer believes its approach to addressing the changes to which Meijer referred will prove its validity worldwide, it will particularly do so in Asia, where Covid restrictions have suppressed demand to the point where the single fleet-type model has become less and less effective, according to Villaron.

“The Asian picture is interesting to compare with other markets,” he explained. “In the U.S. and Europe, we were very successful with the [E-Jet] E1 family. Here it was tougher simply due to the fact that Asia is more of a low-cost carrier market while the U.S. and Europe are more hub-and-spoke. The E1 family’s main proposition was rightsizing so you have a lower trip cost with a higher seat cost, but the higher seat cost in this region doesn’t work.”

Now, with the pressure on demand brought by the pandemic, airlines have seen the need to mitigate the risk of flying a single fleet type of narrowbodies. Embraer’s E195-E2, for example, offers the ability to fly low-fare routes at a viable cost.

Meijer sees the phenomenon applying to smaller regional aircraft as well, suggesting significant potential for the 850-nm-range turboprop under study at Embraer for the past few years. The Embraer commercial aircraft chief told AIN that the company expects to decide whether or not to launch the project by the end of this year or early next year. Before it does that, it will need to decide on an engine, proposals for which all three major engine makers remain under consideration.

Meanwhile, Embraer continues to evaluate items such as engine placement. It now considers a rear-mounted configuration as preferable because of interior noise mitigation and simply aesthetics. The company has set a certification target of 2027 for one of the two seating capacities in its plans—a 70- and a 90-seater. It has decided on a metal fuselage based on that used by the original E-Jets.

Embraer projects a 20-year demand for 2,200 turboprops and a requirement for 900 from Asia alone. “There are a lot of Asian carriers that would like the sustainability and fuel burn benefits of a turboprop,” explained Meijer. “Like for like a turboprop is roughly 25 percent more efficient than a jet on short distance. There are a lot of short-range operations in Asia with turboprops and there’s a clear appetite for a bigger version here.”