NBAA 09: Financing challenges at JetBird and JetSuite drive Phenom 100 delivery shortfall

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In another sign of the tough economic times, Embraer has more than 10 Phenom 100 very light jets sitting at the factory waiting for delivery as European air taxi start-up JetBird and US charter operator JetSuite struggle to secure financing.

The manufacturer was expecting to deliver 35-40 Phenom 100s in the third quarter, but delivered only 22 aircraft. Chief executive Fred Curado says Embraer has not encountered any problems ramping up production, but "commercial issues" have prevented it from meeting its delivery targets.

Embraer executive vice-president for executive aviation Luis Carlos Affonso says two of Embraer's largest Phenom 100 customers, JetBird and JetSuite, account for a majority of the "shortfall".

 © Embraer

JetBird, which has been planning to launch operations across Europe in September but has not yet taken delivery of any aircraft, has 59 Phenom 100s on order. "I believe they are very close to taking delivery of airplanes," Affonso told Flight Evening News.

JetSuite launched charter operations in May using one leased Phenom 100. At the end of September it took its second aircraft and the first from its 60-aircraft order. JetSuite chief executive Alex Wilcox acknowledges it is behind in deliveries due to various reasons including "financing realities" but plans to catch up by year-end with five or six Phenom 100s to be delivered in the current quarter.

Affonso and Curado are confident Embraer will be able to catch up on Phenom 100 deliveries this quarter. Curado says Embraer's earlier target of delivering 110 Phenom 100s this year "is still doable" although this will require 65 fourth quarter deliveries.

He says Embraer is on track from a production standpoint. He says the 100th production Phenom 100 is already on the assembly line.

Affonso adds that if JetBird and JetSuite are able to close on financing both will be able to take several aircraft in quick succession.

Given the current backlog, the next available slot for a Phenom 100 or 300 is technically 2013, but Affonso acknowledges Embraer has 2010 slots available for both types. He says Embraer is still on track to certificate and deliver the first batch of Phenom 300s at the end of this year.