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Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer has expanded significantly since its launch in 1969. It has survived throughout the growth of Boeing and Airbus, developing its niche with smaller regional aircraft. A recent attempted merged with Boeing highlights the potential seen in this market. For now at least, Embraer remains independent and focussed on its latest E-Jet series.

Brazil and it’s early EMB aircraft

Embraer was founded by the Brazilian government in 1969, amidst a growing national aviation and engineering industry. It was initially supported largely by contracts from the government, working on both military and civilian developments.

Its first large-scale development for the airline market was the EMB 110 Bandeirante (meaning pioneer), launched in 1973. This was a regional turboprop aircraft, with a maximum capacity of 21 passengers. This was a very successful first aircraft, with over 500 produced and sold globally up to 1990. Embraer developed this into the larger EMB 120, with capacity of up to 30. This worked well for US regional airlines too, and over 350 aircraft were delivered up to 2001.

Entering the regional jet market with the ERJ

Embraer added jets to its commercial offerings in the late 1980s, with the launch of the Enterprise Regional Jet (ERJ) family. The first aircraft entered service in 1995. The initial design was based on the EMB 120, but with the engines shifted to rear mounted. There have been several variants developed as part of the ERJ series:

  • ERJ 135. This is the smallest variant, with a capacity of 37.
  • ERJ 140. This mid-sized variant with a capacity of 44 was developed specifically for the US market where union agreements limited regional aircraft size.
  • ERJ 145. This larger variant was the first to launch and offers a capacity of up to 55.
  • ERJ 145LR and 145XLR. These longer-range variants are upgraded with higher powered engines and increased fuel capacity.

Making improvement with the E-Jet E2 series

Embraer announced upgrades to the E-Jet series at the Paris Air Show in 2013. The E2 Series keeps the design and variant range of the E-Jet (but drops the smaller E170, and increases the capacity of the largest E195-E2 variant up to 132 to 146). It makes updates in fuel efficiency, engines, wing design and avionics. This take advantage of technology developments, and also helps keep it competitive against the Airbus A220.

The E-Jet has sold very well for Embraer. To date, over 1,500 aircraft have been delivered. It is still early days for the latest E2, but over 50 have been delivered by mid-2022. While the larger E190-E2 and E195-E2 are certified and operational, Embraer has experienced delays with the shorter E175-E2. This is not yet certified, and orders have not been confirmed.

Developing a new turboprop

Embraer is heading in a potentially interesting direction currently with the development of a new turboprop aircraft. Jets, of course, have been the focus for some time, but Embraer sees opportunities back in this area. In its 2022 market update, Embraer forecast demand for almost 11,000 regional (under 150 seat) aircraft over the next 20 years.

It sees growing demand within this for smaller aircraft, and an increased focus on sustainability and fuel efficiency. With this in mind, it expects around 21% of the demand to be for turboprops. As such, it has announced the intention to develop a new turboprop aircraft. Any design, or final decision, is not yet available but it is expected that 50 and 90 seat versions will be offered, potentially based on the E2 airframe.

At the Farnborough Air Show in 2022, Embraer announced that it had received over 250 letters of intent for a new turboprop. However, we will have to wait longer to find out more details about the development.

Changing ownership over the years

Embraer has seen plenty of change over its more than 50 years service, but remains an independent company today. For the first 25 years it was government owned but was privatised in 1994 (along with many other companies after a change in government). Embraer’s well-known first president, Ozires Silva, returned to lead the company through and after its privatisation.

Ownership structures changed again when Embraer was listed in July 2000. It made simultaneous listings on the Brazilian and the US stock markets. It remains publicly traded in this way today. Notably, a joint venture with Boeing was proposed in 2018. Under this, Boeing would have taken a majority stake in Embraer’s commercial aircraft division. The deal was cancelled by Boeing in 2020 and seems unlikely to return.

Final Thoughts

Embraer is doing well with its current E-Jet series, but no doubt has to think through its strategy now that the merger with Boeing has fallen through. This would have helped sales, amidst strong competition from other manufacturers – including Airbus with the A220 and new Chinese developments in the regional jet market. Its new turboprop will expand its offering, but will also face strong, well established competition.

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