EBACE Convention News

Embraer All In on Sustainability, Technology Advancements

 - May 21, 2023, 5:43 PM
Embraer is eying ways to move fly-by-wire into smaller aircraft. (Photo: David McIntosh)

Embraer arrives at EBACE this week with a fresh deal from NetJets potentially worth more than $5 billion, a focus on sustainability, and a drive to build on its technologies such as fly-by-wire flight controls.

In the weeks leading up to EBACE, Embraer (Booth Z34, Static AD_22) announced an order from NetJets for up to 250 of its midsize Praetor 500s, with deliveries slated to begin in 2025. This paved new ground for Embraer with NetJets, moving its midsize jets into the fractional operator's fleet after supplying more than 120 Phenom 300/300E light jets thus far to NetJets under orders originally placed in 2010 and followed on in 2021 that are valued at more than $1.2 billion. Fractional operator Flexjet is also an operator of Praetor 500s and 600s. 

Noting that the Phenom 300 is the most requested aircraft in the NetJets fleet, Embraer Executive Jets president and CEO Michael Amalfitano credited these successes not only to the efficiency and capabilities of the aircraft but also advancements that have broken ground in their respective categories in areas such as fly-by-wire, airborne connectivity, and synthetic vision.

Embraer plans to push the envelope on these technologies, he said, giving a glimpse of the next evolutions to come: “We're going to continue to try to look for solutions to bring fly-by-wire to smaller and smaller aircraft.”

This includes the possibility for fly-by-wire for the Phenom light jets, something Amalfitano said is doable. “You don't need a whole new aircraft [for fly-by-wire] because Embraer has done a fantastic job of building robust platforms that have long cycle times and have our ability to really optimize each of those aircraft.”

Another area ahead is increased autonomy. Full autonomy is a long-term goal for Embraer's Eve Air Mobility subsidiary, but Amalfitano said it is also an area where the company can “cross-pollinate” throughout its product lines. “What can we do to the Phenom 100 and the Phenom 300, which are already single-pilot? How do we further automate that so that they can transition from single-pilot to autonomous flight?” Amalfitano asked

“We have been the leading edge of innovations coming to market,” he said. “I think that's what you're going to see more and more of. So things like 100 percent sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), zero-emission propulsion, features that bring autonomous or simplified flight or emergency autoland.”

Connectivity is another area he cited, including low-earth-orbit solutions (LEO). Amalfitano called advancements in LEO “the whole next generation of the satellite transformation that's taking place.” He added, “There's going to be a huge shift to more and more things being digital and not only in terms of the aircraft and the ability for users on the airplane to have a digital connection but the entire ecosystem to be built off of digital solutions.”

Embraer continues examining advanced technologies to its Phenom and Praetor lines. Because of their adaptability in the long term, he does not see Embraer trying to fit new models into the categories of those aircraft. Any new aircraft models would either be “upstream or downstream,” he said.

As for EBACE, Amalfitano stressed it “is really all about the sustainability of air travel and the ecosystem for the future.” He noted that Embraer is a sponsor of this week’s Sustainability Summit that is taking place during EBACE and said he expects the topic to be a central theme throughout the show. These discussions run the gamut from airframe, propulsion, and avionics refinements to SAF and recycled materials used to manufacture aircraft.

For Embraer, it is exploring multiple avenues on this front through its in-house engineering vertical teams, the Embraer-X technology incubator, and Eve.

While Eve will not have a demonstrator at EBACE, Amaliftano said electrification technologies are an “exciting part” of the sustainability efforts. He added that zero-emission propulsion is “a big part of what we see in the future.”

But electrification is just one aspect of Embraer's overarching sustainability ambitions, he said, pointing to other initiatives such as the Praeterra interior concept introduced last year that is designed for “ergonomics and craftmanship…with a tree of life.” This means using bamboo, wool, recycled plastics, and other sustainable materials, drawing on the Japanese “Mokume-gane” techniques, he said.

In other areas, Embraer is looking at manufacturing and digital evolutions to bring efficiencies and more sustainable approaches. “You have to be all in on developing sustainable air travel, and we look at it beyond the asset,” he said. “We're looking at this in terms of the ecosystem itself.”

As for the timing of all of this, Amalfitano pointed to the Praeterra interiors as a more immediate advancement and its EMB-203 Ipanema eco-demonstrator that will test flight with 100 percent electricity. Lessons learned from those trials are flowing into Eve’s developments. “That’s happening as we speak,” he said.

Another “huge part of our commitment” is SAF. Embraer has struck deals to bring the greener fuel to its factory in Melbourne, Florida, on a quarterly basis and at the same time is moving forward with testing of 100 percent SAF in its products. Plans call for testing 100 percent SAF in the Phenoms and Praetors later this year. “We're doing real-time things currently to support what's capable for today,” he said.

At EBACE this week, Embraer is showcasing its Praetor 500 and 600 and Phenom 300E alongside highlighting its commitment “to really design the future of air travel in a customer-centric way and in an environmentally safe way,” Amalfitano said.