Embraer unveils concepts for two new midsize aircraft

 - September 26, 2007, 7:57 AM

Embraer has made moves to plug gaps in its young but growing lineup of corporate aircraft, announcing at last month’s NBAA Convention two new concept jets positioned between the Phenom 300 and Legacy 600. Although the company did not officially launch the two programs, it unveiled artist’s renderings of its new midsize jet (MSJ) and midlight jet (MLJ), along with a full-size cabin mock-up of the MSJ.

“We are introducing two products between the Phenom and the Legacy 600, so that if a customer wants to upgrade from the Phenom 300, this customer can stay with our brand,” Luis Carlos Affonso, executive vice president for executive jets, told AIN.

“Today the gap is big, from $7 million to $26 million, so with these two airplanes we will be providing intermediate steps for the customer to grow with our brand, but of course we also intend to capture some of the market for replacement of old airplanes and open a new customer base.”

The new MSJ and MLJ designs displayed at NBAA could represent Embraer’s entry into a lucrative market. “This segment–the midlight and midsize–accounts for about 22 percent of the total market in terms of units,” said Affonso. “For someone who needs to fly domestically in the U.S., it’s the perfect airplane. You don’t need more than that, so there is a huge market for this airplane for such applications. Exactly the same happens in Europe and South America with customers who really have the majority of their needs and business destinations within a continent [the size of] North America.”

Cabin Comfort Is Key

Like the Phenom 100 and 300, the MSJ and MLJ will share the same fuselage cross section. However, the two new aircraft will have even more commonality–up to 90 percent. The MSJ will be about five feet longer than the MLJ but have the same wings.

The MSJ design calls for eight-passenger capability, with a range of 2,800 nm at a high-speed cruise of Mach 0.80, and 3,000 nm with four passengers. Takeoff field length at mtow is expected to be 4,500 feet. The aircraft is projected to have a ceiling of 45,000 feet. According to Embraer, the MSJ would be able to fly nonstop between such city pairs as New York and Seattle and New York and Dublin.

Embraer intends for the MLJ to have a 2,200-nm range at Mach 0.78 with eight passengers and NBAA IFR reserves. The airplane will also have a takeoff field length of 2,900 feet at mtow. The MLJ is expected to reach the same ceiling as the MSJ.

Affonso said Embraer is considering engine options from Rolls-Royce, Honeywell and Pratt & Whitney Canada. He remained tightlipped about the engine’s thrust levels, but observers expect them to be in the 7,000-pound to 12,000-pound range.

“We are of course looking into new-technology engines that will be state-of-the-art in terms of emissions and fuel consumption, so we intend to design an airplane that is efficient and compatible with the future requirements in terms of carbon and emissions and noise,” he said.

Embraer has not yet decided on an avionics supplier. Affonso said, “For this product line we are looking at the high-end from more traditional suppliers. We are looking into Rockwell Collins systems, Honeywell, also CMC and some others.” Affonso said the two aircraft will have the same avionics system, but the MSJ might have more standard equipment.

The company believes the cabin size of the new aircraft will set them apart from their competitors. “We believe comfort is important. Customers more and more want a spacious and comfortable cabin,” Affonso said. “On the interior, let me stress it is a full stand-up cabin with a flat floor, which you cannot find in this segment. In the midlight or midsize categories you always have a recessed floor, so there is a huge advantage in terms of cross section,” he added. The two designs currently have six feet of headroom.

BMW Group Designworks USA will design the cabin of the new aircraft. (The company is also designing the interior of the Phenom 100 and 300.) While Embraer emphasizes that this is not a product launch, the presence of the brand-new mockup will surely have many awaiting formal launch announcements, which Affonso said won’t happen this year. “We have not defined a price yet, but I would say it is clearly the best combination and we exceed in almost all the characteristics,” he said. “We are happy with these definitions, but let’s see how the market reacts.”