Embraer studies return to turboprop market

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Brazilian regional airframer Embraer is considering a return to the turboprop market as rival Bombardier focuses on the development of its CSeries twinjet programme.

Embraer has previously indicated that the tight competition between Bombardier and Europe's ATR left little room for a third player in the sector.

However, Bombardier's Q400 has sold poorly compared with the ATR-72 - its backlog last year was 24 aircraft, compared to ATR's figure of over 200 - and the Canadian airframer has not shown the same level of interest in pursuing a 90-seat turboprop.

Embraer Aviation Europe president Luiz Fuchs says the company is "seriously studying the possibility of a return to turboprop manufacture".

Fuchs spoke at the French Connect 2012 conference in Paris last month and confirmed that studies were being undertaken as a consequence of the regional jet market tending towards larger 100- to 150-seat aircraft - the sector at which the CSeries is aimed.

Embraer's vice-president of commercial aviation for Europe, Simon Newitt, adds: "It's fair to say that we're an aircraft manufacturer and... we wouldn't be doing our job if we weren't looking at the broad picture to see where opportunities could arise."

He says that Embraer, which is looking at re-engining its E-Jet family, is "in study mode" and adds that the turboprop issue is "on our radar, like many other things".

He warns, however, about the impact of the price of fuel on demand for the type. "Typically speaking, when the fuel price is so high, everyone starts focusing on turboprops; when the fuel price drops, turboprops become a niche programme," he says.