ANALYSIS: Embraer closes in on final E2 design decisions

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Now halfway between programme launch and scheduled first flight, Embraer’s E2 family of re-engined and re-winged E-Jets is rapidly taking final shape.

In four months, workers at the Brazilian airframer’s OGMA centre of excellence for metal production – located in Evora, Portugal will start cutting the first metal of the E190 E2’s advanced new wing. Two months later, Embraer plans to complete critical design reviews for all major systems, including the fly-by-wire technology pioneered by the airframer’s Legacy 500 business jet and KC-390 tanker-transport.

That will lead to a design freeze in late 2014, construction of the first airframe and assembly beginning in late 2015, and the first two Pratt & Whitney PW1900G engines arriving in early 2016.

First flight of the E190 E2 which in 2018 will be the first of the three E2 variants to enter service – will follow in the second half of the year, says Luis Carlos Affonso, Embraer’s chief operating officer for the commercial aviation division.

Though service entry is still at least three-and-a-half years distant, the design and configuration decisions Embraer has made thus far and is to make over the next few months will play a significant role in the programme’s future.

Embraer launched the programme in November 2011 in response to decisions by Airbus and Boeing to re-engine the A320 and 737 families. For Embraer, that meant there was no room left in the market for a new, small narrowbody, with the two versions of the Bombardier CSeries, A319neo and 737 Max 7 already crowding the space.

Instead, Embraer’s fallback strategy was to attack the large-regional-jet market it first entered with the E190 a decade ago. That decision saved Embraer the task of designing a new cross-section, and drove a supply-chain strategy focused on preserving as much commonality with the E-Jet “E1” family as possible.

“The E1 is, I would say, a very modern airplane,” Affonso says. “We are trying to keep the systems architectures [on the E2] similar to better leverage the customer base we have on the E1. The mechanics will recognise it’s an E-Jet.”

Embraer has already claimed 250 firm orders in less than 14 months for the E-Jet E2 family, from four operators.

The systems architecture inside the aircraft will remain virtually identical to the E1 fleet, with the latest generation of the Honeywell Primus Epic integrated flightdeck system re-selected. It will offer the same cockpit experience while adding new functions, such as a new flight-management system and synthetic vision, with additional capacity for the functionality to grow as cockpit systems advance over the next two decades.

For Embraer, the biggest departure within the E2 programme is the design of the wing, which was showcased at the airframer’s exhibit at the recent Farnborough air show. Pratt & Whitney is supplying the first 10% of fuel consumption reduction on the E2 by delivering the PW1700G engine for the E175 E2 and the PW1900G for the E190 and E195 E2. Most of the rest of the change in fuel consumption comes from the new aerofoils.

The shape reveals how much Embraer’s wing-design skills have evolved over the last 15 years.

“It’s a completely new wing. The span of the wing is increased by 5m on both the 175 and the 190/195,” Affonso says, “and of course a completely new shapes, new aspect ratio, smaller relative thickness. It’s a modern wing, much more efficient.”

The addition of fly-by-wire flight controls means Embraer still has more decisions to make about how much capability to integrate into the wings. Airbus and Boeing use fly-by-wire systems to alleviate gust loads, smoothing the ride for passengers and slightly improving fuel efficiency.

“This system can do everything. It is very capable and we can add functionalities,” Affonso says. “We are considering gust alleviation but this is under study as we speak.”

P&W, meanwhile, has assured Embraer that the oil-system failure that has kept the Bombardier CSeries fleet grounded for nearly seven weeks poses no risk to the E2 schedule. The PW1900G on the E190 and E195 models of the E2 will share the same turbo machinery as the PW1500G on the CSeries. As a result, the E-Jet engine will not require a separate certification campaign, but only an addendum to the CSeries certificate, Affonso says.