JetBlue’s E-190 deferrals widen Embraer’s 2018 production gap

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JetBlue Airways' decision to defer delivery of 24 Embraer E-Jets by four years may make it more difficult for Embraer to maintain production of current generation E-Jets until 2018, when it begins producing its second-generation E-Jet E2.

Embraer declines to comment about its production schedule, but in September Paulo Cesar Silva, president and chief executive of Embraer’s commercial aviation division, told Flightglobal he was concerned about the potential for a commercial aircraft production slowdown between 2016 and 2018.

He added, however, that demand from North American operators for the company’s popular E-175 should minimise the chance of a slowdown.

“Given the need in the US market to replace 50-seaters and the need to modernise the US fleet, I think [there will be] big demand for the 175, “ Silva said. “It will help fill the gap.”

Embraer tells Flightglobal it had unfulfilled orders for 246 current-generation E-Jets at the end of September.

But today JetBlue announced it will defer delivery of 24 E-190s that had been scheduled for delivery between 2014 and 2018. Now JetBlue will receive those aircraft between 2020 and 2022, the airline says.

That brings the number of outstanding orders for Embraer’s current-generation of E-Jets to 222.

The manufacturer produces E-Jets at a rate of roughly eight aircraft monthly, or about 90 to 95 yearly, and it will maintain that rate through 2014, according to comments made by Embraer’s chief executive Frederico Curado in September.

At that rate, and if Embraer receives no additional firm orders for current-generation aircraft, the company would fulfill all outstanding orders for current-generation E-Jets sometime in early 2016.

Embraer notes in a statement that JetBlue’s move is “not an order cancellation, but a restructuring of deliveries over time.”

"It was a natural fleet management [decision] based on market opportunities and [the] business plan of the airline. E-Jets continue to be an important part of JetBlue's business model,” says Embraer.

JetBlue’s fleet includes 59 E-190s and 130 Airbus A320s, according to the Ascend Online database.

In addition to deferring delivery of E-190s, the airline announces today that it placed orders for 15 additional A321s and 20 A321noes. JetBlue also says it will convert 18 orders for Airbus A320s and A321s to larger A321s and A321neos.