Aero International (Regional) (AI(R)) and Embraer are holding talks on the possible joint development of a 70-seat regional jet. The companies have separate projects on the drawing board for regional aircraft, although uncertainties over their viability has been delaying progress towards a launch.

Embraer chief executive Mauricio Botelho confirms the talks. He says: "We have had loose dialogue about the issues of the 70-seat regional-jet market, such as the need to look closely at the economics-and whether there should be two or three players".

AI(R) declines to comment officially, although one source confirms that discussions are under way, claiming that one of the issues being looked at is joint marketing of the 50-seat Embraer 145.

News of the talks comes as the expected launch of AI(R)'s Airjet 70 has been delayed because of doubts among consortium members Alenia, Aerospatiale and British Aerospace on risk-sharing and programme prospects. Potential customers have also demanded significant changes to the design.

AI(R) president Patrick Gavin says: "We have not yet convinced our board that it is the right time to go ahead. We have been asked to offer a more consistent and comprehensive proposal."

Embraer is not expected to decide on the launch of the EMB-170 before the end of the year. Botelho admits that the $450 million cost of the programme requires "careful scrutiny". Gavin says that one of the AI(R) board's demands is that AirJet should be the "focal point" of the rationalisation of the regional-aircraft industry.

He confirms that several potential suppliers for the aircraft are "very sensitive" about the financial returns on the project following tough conditions from AI(R) on risk-sharing and initial funding to cover non-recurring costs. British Aerospace, in particular, is worried about risk exposure following its experience with the BAe146.

Questions have arisen after talks with potential customers who have demanded design changes. As a result, the fuselage, based around that of the ATR 42/72, has been circularised, and the original ATR 72 rear fuselage redesigned. Operating weight has also been increased, to allow range to rise by 370km (200nm), to 2,200km.

Source: Flight International