ISTAT 2012: E-Jet revamp promises three-way engine 'dogfight'

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A fierce battle is brewing between GE, Rolls-Royce and Pratt & Whitney to supply as many as 3,000 engines to power the re-vamped Embraer E-Jet family.

Steven Udvar-Hazy, Air Lease Corp chief executive describes the three-way contest as "a real dogfight". He anticipates as many as 3,000 engines could be at stake through a sole-source contract to power the Embraer 198, the moniker given to the conceptual aircraft by ALC.

Attention has recently been focused on the potential competition to power Boeing's 777X concept, but Hazy says the fight to deliver an engine offering a 10% improvement in specific fuel consumption (SFC) on the E-Jet will be equally fierce.

"I think Rolls-Royce could be a factor there if they play it smart, but I think they're putting too much effort into the 777," he says of its proposed RB3025 engine for the next generation 777s. "The one area I'd like to see Rolls more aggressive on is on the Embraer [re-engining]."

GE is the exclusive engine supplier for the E-Jet family with its CF34-8 and -10 engines for the E-170/E-175 and E-190/E-195, respectively.

Air Lease is advising Embraer, which recently visited its Los Angeles headquarters, to offer a one-row, four-seat stretch to the E-190 and a two- or three-row, eight-to-12-seat boost on the larger E-195, providing an overall 15-17% fuel burn improvement, says Hazy, whose Air Lease has ordered 30 E-Jets.

Today's single-class 114-seat and 122-seat E-190 and E-195 would rise to 118 seats and 130-134 seats, respectively.

Much of the efficiency improvement would be enabled through a larger diameter fan that would be accommodated by slightly raised landing gear and a new, larger aluminium or carbonfibre wing, says Hazy.

The increased capacity would bring renewed pressure to bear on Bombardier's CSeries, notes Hazy. "That puts both airplanes very close to the smaller [100-125-seat] CSeries, but look at the R&D costs of an advanced Embraer versus an all-new CSeries," says Udvar-Hazy, who adds Embraer's comparatively lower development costs would deliver pricing flexibility.

"It's going to be very competitive, I think, [against] the CSeries," he says of the new E-Jet. Embraer has "such a huge customer base that's it's a natural for someone who will have a 10-to-12-year-old E-175 or E-190 to upgrade to [the re-engined model]."

The Brazilian airframer announced in 2011 it would focus its attention exclusively on development of a potentially re-winged, re-engined E-Jet family rather than an all-new aircraft.