Embraer considers turboprop market too small for three manufacturers

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Embraer has decided the turboprop sector is already too small to support the market's two existing manufacturers, and the Brazilian airframer has no interest in pursuing it, chief executive Frederico Curado says.

Only three weeks ago Luiz Fuchs, president of Embraer Aviation Europe, said the company is "seriously studying the possibility of a return to turboprop manufacture."

It was the first time since 2008 that Embraer officials openly discussed a next-generation turboprop programme.

Embraer once built hundreds of turboprop-powered EMB 110 and EMB 120 airliners, ranging in size from 15-30 seats. The company shifted to regional jets in the early 1990s, and finally to the E-Jet family a decade later.

However, Curado told reporters on 10 April the company's latest study concluded launching a new turboprop would not be the "best investment today".

Curado pointed to ATR and Bombardier's order tally last year, which totalled 164 aircraft - including 157 for ATR alone.

"It just confirmed our assessment of the market, that this is a market which has a size for one manufacturer," Curado says. "Two may be already kind of complicated - and a third player? Unless there is a huge breakthrough in technology, which we don't see there - the engines can probably bring some advantage - it's too small a market to justify a huge investment in our point of view."

In fact, Pratt & Whitney Canada is developing a new turboshaft engine, and General Electric is designing a civil variant of the military GE38. Both could be offered to power a next-generation turboprop that may be launched by ATR later this year.

Meanwhile, Embraer is working on defining the scope of a re-engining project for the E 170/190 family, which Air Lease Corp has dubbed the E 198.

Embraer plans to decide in 2013 whether to add other enhancements to the aircraft - and whether to include all four members of the family or exclude the 70-seat E 170, Curado says.

Embraer also is considering a stretch of the E 195 to as many as 134 seats.

A decision on a new engine could be made sooner, but "not by much", Curado says. General Electric exclusively supplies engines for the existing E-Jets, and is developing the Passport to compete for the second-generation engine. Embraer also is considering bids from Rolls-Royce and Pratt & Whitney.

"We are really focusing on the E-Jets for the time-being," Curado says.