Embraer opened a 50,000-sq-ft aircraft seating plant in Titusville, Fla., on September 19. Embraer Aero Seating Technologies will focus on the manufacture of seating for the company’s Phenom executive jets and first-class seats for E190E2 airliners. The plant is expected to create 150 jobs by 2020. Embraer has spent $150 million on capital investment in Florida’s space coast since 2008 and already employs 1,000 people throughout Florida, most at its Melbourne complex, where it assembles Phenom 100s and 300s and Legacy 450s and 500s and maintains design, engineering and customer centers.
“Having spent 50 years designing and developing aircraft for various markets, Embraer recognizes the distinct importance of the aircraft seat, the ultimate customer touch point. It needs to perform accordingly. That’s why we made the decision to bring this expertise in-house,” said Embraer’s new CEO, Paulo Cesar de Souza e Silva. De Souza e Silva assumed the top job at Embraer in July after 32 years at the company, most recently as president of the commercial aviation division. He told AIN that the company is considering in-sourcing more business jet interior components. The company is investing in vertical integration, he said. “It’s a good way to become more efficient and give our clients more quality at the right cost,” he said.
In 2011 Embraer acquired an initial minority stake in Irwindale, Calif.-based Aero Seating Technologies (AST) and bought the company outright last year. AST will continue to operate its facility in Irwindale and, at least for the time being, will continue to perform all dynamic seat testing and qualifications, an Embraer spokesman said.
De Souza e Silva said that initially the Titusville plant will produce seats strictly for Embraer and not for third-party customers. “In the future, I don’t know; but not now,” he said.
Jay Beever, vice president of interior design at Embraer Executive Jets, said one of the main advantages of bringing seating in house is the superior level of craftsmanship, fit and finish that can be achieved. “Comfort can be felt through foam. But ergonomics is based on the airplane adapting to the human.” Beever and his team will work with the seating engineers. He also oversees industrial engineers and customer support designers who together take seat concepts from sketch, to engineering model, to rendering, to prototype using techniques such as 3D printing, which allows Embraer to check the fit of prototype parts.
Beever’s industrial design team recently completed a modified Phenom 100 seat for the Ace (Aircraft Customization by Embraer) program. Ace provides retrofit motorsport-themed interiors for used Phenoms. Embraer used industrial design to save weight, trimming five pounds from each seat by converting to lighter composite arms, by decoratively exposing sections of seat structure and the seat back, and by fastening the face of the chair to the back like a purse and thus eliminating brackets.
Beever, who spent 15 years in automotive design, said his inspiration for the new Phenom seat was the Singer Porsche 911 conversion, a pricey performance makeover that lightens the classic German sports car by 450 pounds and turns it into a speed demon.