Now open to all Readers. (Nov. 29, 2014)
Oct. 15, 2014: Embraer had the opportunity to design a clean-sheet airplane as a successor to the E-Jet to respond to the Bombardier CSeries, with the 100-110 seat CS100 a direct competitor to the E-190/195.
But after Airbus and Boeing launched the A320neo and 737 MAX families, including the small A319neo and 737-7 MAX, officials chose the more conservative play to re-engine the E-Jet at an estimated cost of $1.7bn. An entirely new airplane meant up-sizing to be directly competitive with the CS300 and the Baby Airbus and Boeing. This would have been a crowded field that didn’t make sense.
That said, this is an industry that requires long-term planning. Luis Carlos Affonso, SVP of Operations and COO Commercial Aviation, says Embraer needs more than one family of airplanes. The question is, what becomes the next family.
For Embraer, the move was the best choice.
“In 2010/11 we were considering our alternatives because we were already very successful with the E-Jets and we were considering what to do with our next step. The combination of what happened back then which was basically the launch of re-engined airplanes by Boeing and Airbus.”
The existence of the new technology engines prompted EMB to decide to go with a
re-engining of the E-Jet, with new wings for the smaller E-175 and a larger design for the E-190/195, new systems, new landing gear doors, aerodynamic clean-up and other improvements, both technical and in the passenger cabin.
That time, 2011-2012, was the time to revamp our E-Jet family. We were at that time the dominant market player with 50% of the orders and 60% of the deliveries. “Let’s incorporate this technology in our products to protect our leadership in this segment,” Affonso said.
Unlike Boeing and Airbus, which claimed the MAX and the neo would be minimum change airplanes (at which Airbus has been more successful than Boeing), Embraer elected to optimize its re-engine with a new wing and other improvements. The E2 will only be about 50% common with the E1.
“The airplane will be as competitive as a clean-sheet designed airplane,” Affonso told us.
The E2 first flight, for the E-190 E2, is scheduled for 2016 and entry-into-service in 2018. The E-195 E2 and E-175 E2 follow at one-year intervals.
“We have our hands full until 2020 with the three members of the family. We are very happy with the decision.”
Affonso said the “same question applies again: what is next? We believe that in the commercial aviation business unit we should have more than one family. [It will] spread risks, make transitions smoother, and so forth. It’s clear that there are two main alternatives.
“One is to go up. The E2 has already increased our coverage in terms of market segments because the 195 E2 is three rows bigger,” which seats 133 in standard Y class configuration, 144 in high density or 122 in dual class. “Of course we could play into the segment immediately above,” Affonso said.
Based on standard design growth of about 20% in seating capacity, this “up” family would put Embraer into the 150-160 seat or higher arena, placing a new family squarely into Airbus and Boeing A320neo/737-8 territory.
“The market is a big, big market, a very important market, but, huge competition from two very, very well established players. That’s the challenge in that space,” Affonso said. “We don’t think we have a major technology gap to be successful in that market, but, yes, we would have to face two giants commercially.
The other market opportunity would be to explore the market below the E2, or the turbo-prop sector. ATR dominates this sector two with the ATR72 (and to a lesser extend, the ATR42). Bombardier, which once controlled this sector with the Dash 8 family and Q400, today maintains a small market share, a distant #2 to ATR.
“In that case again, we don’t see a technological gap. The challenger there is the market is smaller,” he said. EMB forecasts the turbo prop demand over 20 years at around 2,000, or an average of a mere 100 per year. “The development of a turbo prop is not significantly less expensive than a jet. The challenge is to create strategies and solutions that will make for a sound business case.”
Affonso said there is no need to “take this decision now,” but “eventually” will do so as market intelligence and technologies develop. “We wouldn’t have to make a decision in the next few years and we don’t have to impose a time limit to ourselves.”
EMB would be ready to take on a new program in the next three years or so, but any decision will be market-driven and could be later.
“We don’t want to create expectations. We will launch a program when we believe market conditions warrant,” Affonso said. “I don’t see any clean-sheet design, new market today. It’s possible there could be a step change in 2018 [for an EIS in the next decade]. There could be new technologies available in four-six years.”
Affonso sees new technologies then that could support expanding into another family of airplanes.