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Marriage of convenience

The airliner landscape has seen significant changes in recent months. Alan Dron analyses recent events at Embraer

Anyone watching the sales register ticking over at Embraer’s chalet at the Farnborough International Airshow 2018 would have rightly deemed the Brazilian airframer to be having a highly successful week. It booked approximately 300 orders and commitments for a mix of its current Embraer E1 and new E2 series regional jets.


Top among those was a firm order for 100 E175 E1s (plus a further 100 purchase rights) for major US regional Republic Airways, as well as new customers like Kuwait’s Wataniya, which signed up for 10 E195 E2s plus a further 10 options for the type.


This was significantly ahead of the order tally for Embraer’s great rival the Bombardier C Series – or Airbus A220, as we must now learn to call it – which racked up ‘only’ 60 commitments in the form of an MoU for a US startup headed by the founder of JetBlue, David Neeleman.


However, it was the MoU from Neeleman’s old company signed immediately prior to the show for 60 A220-300s that would have set alarm bells ringing in São Paulo. JetBlue is currently a major Embraer E190 customer with 60 in its inventory and the Brazilian manufacturer would have not unreasonably thought that the advantage of incumbency would give it an edge when it came to deciding the existing fleet’s replacement.

JetBlue’s A220 order is likely to have been in the works for some time; nevertheless, it was a reminder, if one were needed, that the Canadian-built competitor now has the power of the Airbus marketing machine behind it.


That may well convince Embraer that it has done the right thing by agreeing on a joint venture with Boeing for its commercial aircraft division.

With Boeing taking 80% of the new joint venture company, there is no doubt as to who oversees the new organisation.


It is fair to assume that the deal aroused mixed feelings in Brazil. The country is proud of the fact that Embraer has developed into a genuinely world-class company that has carved out a niche in the aerospace industry and losing control of the biggest part of that jewel in the crown will not sit comfortably with many Brazilians. (The military aircraft and business jet divisions will stay in Brazilian hands.)

However, hooking up with the world’s largest and most successful commercial aircraft manufacturer potentially gives Brazil the opportunity to expand Embraer’s reach further than it could possibly have achieved by itself.

There are two major areas where Embraer could find itself reaching new heights. „

Firstly, Boeing will be able to make use of the additional capacity and skills that Embraer brings to the table. The Brazilian manufacturer has built up a reputation for high-quality engineering – something that could be extremely useful to Boeing as it lines up new projects over the next five to 10 years.


Most obviously, Embraer could find itself building substantial components for the New Midmarket Aircraft (NMA) that Boeing is expected to launch within the next year as a replacement for Boeing 757/767 class aircraft. The NMA, which would probably become the Boeing 797 once formally launched, would carry somewhere between 200 and 270 passengers around 5,000nm and burn around 25% less fuel than the 1970s-design 757.

It would span the gap between aircraft such as the Boeing 737 MAX 10 and Airbus A321neo at one end of the spectrum and elderly 767s at the other. >>


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