Embraer has underlined that it is still holding to a 2021 target for service entry of the E175-E2, despite a lack of orders for the smallest variant of the second-generation E-Jet family.
"The E175-E2 is absolutely on schedule. The [first] aircraft is in final assembly right now and we are planning to hang the two GTF engines on the aircraft tomorrow," said John Slattery, speaking shortly after delivery of the first E195-E2 on 12 September.
First flight of the third member of the E-Jet family is on track for later this year "and we expect to have the aircraft in revenue-generating service by the end of 2021", says Slattery.
Sales momentum for the Pratt & Whitney PW1700G-powered jet has been hampered by the aircraft's failure to meet scope-clause weight limits in the USA.
A previous agreement with SkyWest for 100 units was removed from the airframer's firm order backlog last year to comply with accounting regulations. Although Embraer stressed that the regional carrier remained "committed" to the deal, it said there was no certainty around when the scope clause agreements might be revised.
But Slattery believes the E175-E2 is not dependant on a single market for success. "I am confident that we will secure a launch customer or customers outside of the USA, sooner rather than later.
"The E1 version is operated across the world – it is not an aircraft that is dedicated to the US market. We are powering on with the E2 aircraft and we are staying on schedule," he says.
Although the second-generation E175 has struggled, Embraer can take some solace in the continued success of the E1 version: at 30 June firm order backlog for that model stood at 194 aircraft.
"Until we are scope-compliant in the US we will continue to sell the [E175-] E1 in that market and the E2 outside of it. We have the industrial capability in our hybrid final assembly line to produce both aircraft in a number of combinations," stresses Slattery.
Meanwhile, now the first E195-E2 has been delivered to Brazil's Azul, Slattery says more orders will come.
"Now that we have the E195-E2 certificated you will see a lot more movement with sales firming up and announced in the marketplace," he says.
Embraer's "pipeline is almost exclusively for the E2", he adds.
Azul is the single largest customer for the E195-E2 having placed direct orders for 51 aircraft; it has also announced that it will take an additional six units on lease, split equally between AerCap and Aircastle.
Slattery says Azul will be a "backbone carrier for the programme" and believes it could eventually have "triple digit numbers" of E2s in its fleet "in the fullness of time".
David Neeleman, the founder and chairman of Azul, was present in Sao Jose dos Campos for the delivery of the E195-E2. Slattery describes him as an "enormous supporter" of the E-Jet programme, dating back to the first E1 delivery to JetBlue Airways, the US low-cost carrier founded by Neeleman.
However, for his latest US airline venture – dubbed Moxy – Neeleman selected the E2's arch-rival, the Airbus A220, placing a firm order for 60 aircraft.
Slattery describes the loss of Neeleman's business to the A220 as "particularly difficult and emotional for us" and says that Embraer was "gutted" at the decision.
But he notes that the E195-E2 was still in flight test at that point "and we didn't have the ability to show the aircraft's full range of capabilities".
In a final twist, however, E-Jets could still be the first aircraft flown by Moxy: Neeleman has suggested that as the E2s arrive in Azul's fleet older examples will be rotated out and join the new US airline, enabling it to get up and running before the A220s arrive in 2021.