Embraer commits to re-engined E-Jets

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Embraer has confirmed plans to abandon development of a narrowbody competitor to Airbus and Boeing and instead focus on an estimated $2 billion programme to deliver a re-engined and possibly stretched version of the Embraer 170 and 190 families by 2018.

The move leaves the Bombarder CSeries and Comac C919 alone to challenge the narrowbody duopoly of the 737 and A320.

Embraer considered developing a rival product in the 130-160-seat segment for several years, but the "window of opportunity" collapsed after Boeing decided in August to deliver the re-engined 737 Max in 2017, said Paulo Cesar Souza e Silva, president of Embraer commercial aircraft.

"We aren't seeing at this moment a good business or commercial case in order to move forward and develop a large commercial narrowbody," Silva said. "Our decision is to no longer to focus on the development of a larger jet. We will focus on our current segment."

Embraer instead will target continuing development of a loosely-defined "second-generation" of the E-Jet family, he said.

The E-170, E-175, E-190 and E-195 jets straddle the 70-120 seat market, but the re-engined family could stretch to 130 seats, Silva said.

"[A stretched version] can be a possibility. Of course nothing is yet decided," Silva said, before adding: "I believe many of our customers would like to have such an aircraft."

Embraer has started working with E-Jet customers to start defining the performance goals and technical characteristics of the new aircraft family. Incorporating a composite airframe is among the improvements being considered, Silva said.

But the most important change already decided is to replace the General Electric CF34 with an all-new engine. GE is currently developing an advanced turbofan in the same power class called the "Passport". However, Silva declined to commit to using that powerplant as the default engine for the second-generation E-Jet.

"We are deeply assessing this," Silva said. "Of course, GE is already our major supplier, but we are looking at other options also [and] assessing them."

The re-engined aircraft will have a larger fan diameter, which will require Embraer to install taller landing gear to allow sufficient ground clearance.

Despite committing to the second-generation E-Jet, Embraer will reconsider its options if the plans of its competitors start to change.

"If there is any window of opportunity," Silva said, "we could reconsider our views and change our decision."