FARNBOROUGH: E2 to be star of Embraer's show

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One year after launching the re-engined E-Jet E2 family at the Paris air show, Embraer is putting the programme at the heart of its Farnborough presence.

The airframer’s E2 strategy at the show is two-pronged, says chief executive Frederico Curado. The firm wants to keep increasing its backlog of the current-generation E-Jet to bridge to the new model, while also highlighting the development of the E2.

“It’s a major development for us,” he says. “It’s not just a re-engining, but a major improvement of the aircraft, including new wings.”

Embraer is showcasing a cabin mock-up of the E2 at Farnborough, which Curado hopes will help airlines see for themselves the improvements the airframer is bringing to the E2.

Curado will not be drawn on potential deals, but says:“We work very hard of course to ensure our orders are going up.”

The airframer completed the joint definition phase for the Embraer 190 E2 at the end of May. It has also finalised windtunnel tests for the variant, as well as for the larger E195 E2. Since both variants share the same wing, it was practical for the tests to be conducted at the same time.

The E190 E2 is scheduled to enter service first, in the first half of 2018, and will be followed by the E195 E2 around a year later. The smallest family member – the E175 E2 – completes the line-up in 2020.

The E190 E2 is now in the critical design review phase. Curado declines to specify when this phase will be completed, but says the programme is on schedule. “We are absolutely on time,” he dds.

Embraer has so far secured 200 firm orders for the E2 family. Curado says Embraer has a target “internally” for the number of commitments it wants to accumulate prior to service entry, but declines to make it public. “We’ve had an outstanding start,” he says. “It’s still three and a half years to 2018. Large orders do not happen every day. We are comfortable [with the number of orders now]. We will continue to grow [the backlog].”

Curado adds that he is untroubled by a recent uncontained engine failure involving a Pratt & Whitney PW1500G geared turbofan engine on a Bombardier CSeries test aircraft. P&W is developing two variants of the same powerplant – the PW1700G and PW1900G – to power the E2 family.

Noting that Embraer does not know exactly what happened with the CSeries engine, Curado says the airframer has spoken with P&W and is reassured that “we are not at risk at all”.

“[P&W] is absolutely reliable,” he says. “They have reassured us there’s nothing to be concerned about.”

Embraer holds around 600 options in its backlog for the current-generation E-Jet – known as the E1 – and Curado is hopeful demand in the USA will help convert a portion of those. “We do expect major demand for the E1 to come from the USA in the next few years,” he says, due to US carriers’ ongoing fleet replacement of 50-seat regional jets. “It’s hard to say how many will be converted," he adds.

Curado expects these conversions to be concentrated in 2015-2016. Four US carriers currently hold a total of 277 options for the E1 E-Jet – Republic Airways, United Airlines, SkyWest and American Airlines. “Hopefully we get a good side of that,” Curado says.

With the E2 scheduled to enter service from 2018 onwards, Curado says he does not expect to see a meaningful secondary market for used E1 E-Jets until later. Noting that the first E170 entered service 10 years ago, he says: “There are still several years ahead of us before we see meaningful quantities of E-Jets coming into the secondary market.

“It will be towards the end of the decade when we will see real secondary markets.”

Sales potential for used E1 E-Jets will be “pretty global”, believes Curado, adding that the twinjet is a good fit for an airline’s regional network. Several carriers also use the E190 as a mainline aircraft, he adds. “We have a pretty diverse customer base today,” he says.

While he acknowledges the E-Jet family has a lower penetration rate in Asia compared to other parts of the world, he says this is due to the region’s preference for larger aircraft. “The market has not yet developed an ideal balance [in aircraft size],” says Curado.

Lessor operators of the E-Jet also have a “wide customer spread”, he adds, saying this will ensure the E1 E-Jets are placed.

While the E-Jet family will take centre stage at Farnborough, Embraer’s defence portfolio is likely to have a more muted presence. Curado says an order announced in May for 28 Embraer KC-390s by the Brazilian air force will "probably not" be finalised during the show.

Bureaucracy – or “formal approvals” in Curado's words – is holding up the ratification of the deal. Nonetheless, he believes the contract will be finalised in the third quarter. “[It’s a] question of letting the paperwork flow. It will be done. It is unlikely it will happen in the next few weeks,” he says.

Top priority now is to nail down the final specification of the aircraft with its lead customer, notes Curado. However, orders from other nations that indicated interest in the twinjet – the Czech Republic, Chile, Colombia, Argentina and Portugal – may be slower to firm up.

“I don’t expect quick campaigns. Military campaigns are typically long. So two years, maybe. That’s a typical timeframe for a complex contract to be negotiated and executed,” he says, indicating 2015-2016 as an estimate.

The KC-390 should be certificated by 2016, following first flight scheduled for later this year. “That’s going to be a catalyst for those discussions," Curado says.