July 4, 2022, © Leeham News: Any hope that the Delta Air Lines ALPA pilots union will agree to a slightly relaxed Scope Clause in its next contract are just wishful thinking.
Few thought DALPA, as the chapter at the airline is known, would up the weight of airplanes allowed under Scope. This is needed to permit regional airline partners to operate the Embraer E175-E2. The E2 is more environmentally friendly and economical than the E175-E1, a 1990s design with engines (the CF34) that date to 1982 when it first ran on the test stand. The CF34’s design is based on the military TF34 developed in the 1960s.
EMB’s E175-E2 was supposed to enter service in 2021. It’s been rescheduled three times. The current EIS is now targeted for 2027. Few believe Scope will be relaxed by then. There is a growing belief that the E175-E2 is dead. (Embraer says no.) DALPA is often an industry-leading union. Its refusal to relax the weight limit all but assures the E175-E2 is dead.
The 175 “E1” was specifically designed around the Scope Clause at AA, UAL, and DAL. While the airframe is capable of higher MTOWs but is type certificate limited to 86000 lbs. When Embraer re-engined the E-jets series, it expected that Scope at US Network carriers would retain the 76-seat limit but would likely permit a higher MTOW.
“This was a gamble and had Embraer reached out to the respective pilot groups, it would have been able to design a Scope-compatible aircraft for their largest market,” one ALPA official told LNA on background. “With a better understanding that [for example] 85% of the Delta Connection flying must be below 900SM, and an analysis of the stage lengths operated by the in-service EMB fleet, a completely different 175 E2 would have emerged.”
Ironically, Mitsubishi realized this with its M90. Mitsubishi drew up a redesign in the M100 that traded range for a lower 86000 lbs. MTOW. By the time Mitsubishi’s parent company killed the program in 2020, Memorandums of Understanding for nearly 500 orders from US and European carriers had been signed. Delta was close to signing but hadn’t when Mitsubishi Heavy Industries pulled the plug on the program.
United allowed more weight for the CRJ550 (the CRJ700 reconfigured for 50 passengers). But doing so was entirely out of self-interest.
“We added weight to the CRJ-550, provided the range remains 900 nm. Our pax and jump seating pilots were being left behind due to the 550 weight restriction, especially in the winter. This change fixes that without extending the mission/range of the 550. Our goal of protecting mainline jobs from outsourcing was met as this contract does not allow any more RJs or any more seats at Express,” United’s ALPA unit told LNA.
“You can be assured there will be no change in the Delta contract,” a DALPA official told LNA. “If anything, unlike the United Tentative Agreement (CRJ 550 MTOW exception), the next Delta contract will further tighten restrictions on some Regional flying. It is likely the fate of the 175-E2 is sealed.”
The E175-E2’s market is essentially only the US market. No E175-E2 has been sold outside the US. The pilot unions at United and American airlines negotiated new contracts this year that did not relax the weight limit. DALPA has been in negotiations since 2019 and in mediation since January 2020. LNA is told that the Scope section has been agreed in principle, with no relaxations.
But a ray of hope may exist for Embraer. Killing the E175-E2 doesn’t mean the fate of the larger E2 derivatives (the E190/195) is also sealed in the US, an ALPA official tells LNA. “The current Fee for Departure business model is broken. There is also a big gap between 76 and 110 seats, a nearly 50% increase in capacity. It is likely that the first Mainline Network carrier to integrate a wholly-owned FFD carrier is likely also the first carrier to bring the E2 onboard.”
In the meantime, Embraer continues to sell the E175-E1 to US airlines flying for the Big Three and Alaska Airlines. Embraer says the E175-E1 complies with 2027 IACO emissions and noise standards which will prohibit non-compliant new airplane production from 2028. Member governments of ICAO adopt the 2027 standards—it’s not ICAO’s call—and the US Federal Aviation Administration recently signaled its intent to do so.
It’s hard to see how the old-technology CF34 is compliant with the standards, but I’m not qualified to dispute the claim by Embraer. But I can guess that if the E175-E1 isn’t compliant and there isn’t Scope relaxation or a new airplane that complies, the US would probably exempt the E1. (If a Republican is elected in 2024 to the presidency, coal-fired airplanes will be allowed….)
In the mean, it’s RIP for the E175-E2. And it’s a blow to the environment and even to the bottom line.
A one-for-one replacement of the E2 for the E1, allowing a much “greener” airplane is good for the environment and the improved fuel economy is better for the airline’s bottom line as well—which, in theory, helps protect jobs. There are simply routes that do not support mainline jets. Switching to greener airplanes also reduces the ability of the Greta Thunbergs of the world to pressure commercial aviation to the detriment of jobs.