Embraer could re-engine its GE Aviation CF34-powered E-Jets family as part of a broader study into new commercial programmes, which is being stepped up by the Brazilian airframer in the face of growing competition.
A decision is expected by the end-2010 on whether or not to re-engine and incorporate newer technology into the E-Jets family, or bring a larger-capacity, clean-sheet jet design to market, says Mauro Kern, who was last week promoted to the newly-created position as Embraer's executive vice-president new programmes, airline market.
"You know we've been studying several different projects and talking to engine manufacturers. There have been a lot of different activities in terms of getting prepared to take the next step on our commercial airplane product line. We see that we are approaching a time for a decision on that."
Embraer has also studied a possible stretch of its largest-capacity E-Jet, a project informally called the E-195X. However, Kern says: "Let's not [just] focus on the E-195X because the E-Jets as a family is very strong. It's not only about increasing the size of the aircraft, it's about the family."
The market for 100-120 seats, which is covered by the existing E-Jets, continues to be very promising, he stresses. "It has been very successful. We have a full commitment in keeping this family strong into the future."
Airbus and Boeing are expected to decide this year on whether or not to push ahead with re-engined versions of their successful A320 and 737 families respectively.
Kern notes that a big advantage for E-Jet operators today is their ability to use the aircraft to "right-size" in lower-density markets. However, he acknowledges that if Airbus or Boeing re-engine their narrowbodies, and achieve "better costs per trip", the advantage enjoyed by the E-Jets would "disappear".
"The right-sizing concept has been really strong and we are trying to keep that edge," he says.
Embraer has not yet pinpointed a preferred engine technology, should it opt to re-engine its E-Jets, he adds.
"I would not like to anticipate our position," he says. "We have been working internally here to understand very clearly and to try to find the best possible use of these different technologies for the airplane concepts we're studying here.
"But at this point, I could not say that there is any specific technology that has a clear advantage over the other. GE has been a very good partner on the E-Jets and the other engine manufacturers seem to have very interesting propositions as well."
In his latest role as head of new programmes, Kern is tasked with pulling the necessary company resources together and "putting more energy and more focus into getting all the initiatives in place for a decision for the launch of something new".
Paulo Cesar Silva, formerly Embraer senior vice-president, sales financing, has succeeded Kern as executive vice-president, airline market. He will run the day-to-day operations on the commercial side, while Kern focuses on strategy.
That strategy is not likely to initially focus on new turboprops. Embraer has investigated "several possibilities for turboprops" but currently sees this "as kind of a limited market", says Kern, adding: "I wouldn't say this is a first option today."