Brazilian manufacturer Embraer (Static B8) brought its KC-390 tactical airlifter to the Paris Air Show this week as production of the type accelerates to fill an order for 28 by the Brazilian air force. Embraer’s defense and business aviation units will remain independent following the upcoming sale of a majority stake to Boeing of the company’s commercial aviation business. Boeing remains a marketing partner for the KC-390, however, and this partnership is expected to be fully in place at the beginning of 2020.
The air force’s first KC-390—the airplane brought to the Paris show—is set for delivery in the next couple of months, according to Jackson Schneider, president and CEO of Embraer Defense & Security. The ninth KC-390 is now in the assembly stage at Embraer’s Gavião Peixoto, Brazil factory.
“We are convinced this will be successful,” Schneider said, especially given that the average age of the 2,700 airlifters that the KC-390 could replace is 30 years. “It’s faster, carries a heavier load, and has state-of-the-art mission capability and avionics, and lower maintenance and operating costs.”
Embraer has capacity to build 12 KC-390s per year, but could make more by adding a third shift at the factories where components and final assembly are done. This would also require “solving some bottlenecks in the supply chain,” he said.
By year-end, a new training center near Embraer’s headquarters in São Paulo will open for pilots and technicians. While there won’t be a full-flight simulator, the KC-390 lab simulators will be available for training as they fully replicate the type’s fly-by-wire flight controls and Collins Aerospace Pro Line Fusion avionics suite.
The KC-390 has some unique features designed to aid its military capabilities. Flaps, for example, can be set at one-degree intervals from 0 to 40 degrees to help ensure the correct attitude of the fuselage during cargo drops. Two aircraft can plug into wingtip-mounted refueling nozzles during in-flight fueling operations. And the fly-by-wire flight controls are set up with control laws optimized for various types of flying, including aerial refueling, cargo dropping, and other special-mission-type flying.