Embraer is on course to decide on the launch of an all-new advanced turboprop airliner within the next year but warns that the decision hinges on the approval of its joint venture with Boeing.
The Brazilian manufacturer is two years into a three-year study covering the creation of a family of large turboprops similar in size to the ATR 72, Embraer Commercial Aviation chief executive John Slattery told FlightGlobal during aviation finance week in Dublin.
But he adds that it is crucial that the ongoing probe by the European Commission into the proposed tie-up with Boeing is cleared: “In essence – no JV, no TP [turboprop],” he says.
The joint venture, which will see Boeing take a majority stake in Embraer’s commercial aviation division, has been signed off by all anti-trust authorities other than Brazil and the EU. It had been expected to be cleared to go ahead last year until the European Commission “stopped the clock” on its investigation as it had not received all the information requested from the two OEMs.
“In the case of Brazil, it was signalled before Christmas that the regulatory authority was predisposed to seeing an approval materialize early in the new year,” says Slattery. “We’re hopeful that will happen, and expect that to happen with no conditionality associated with it, which is exactly the form of approval from every jurisdiction we have received so far.”
Slattery says that the EU clock has “restarted” now that it has all the required information, and that the revised target date for the go-ahead is 30 April. This would clear the path to a decision on the turboprop.
“I’m hopeful that by the end of this year we would be able to make a definitive position on the turboprop,” he says. “However, neither I nor my board will have appetite to move forward with the turboprop unless the joint venture has materialised.”
Slattery points out that following approval of the JV, if Embraer decided to go ahead with the all-new turboprop it would provide an all-new competitor to the ATR family: “There is today an effective monopoly with ATR, which of course is 50% owned by Airbus.
“The market wants a competitive counter-point to the ATR, and if we did make the move I expect ATR would respond – whether it’s with either an improved ATR or a clean-sheet design. And the beneficiaries of that are the operators…and the environment.”
Slattery says that Embraer is studying a two-aircraft family and is in dialogue with “three” engine manufacturers about a powerplant. “We are now in that bridge phase moving from RFI [request for information] to RFP [request for proposals] with the manufacturers, with the intention of selecting one.”
He adds that wind-tunnel testing will begin this year as the study enters the final phase. Slattery estimates that if the decision to launch the turboprop on its current planned schedule, the target in-service date would be “quarter four 2025, quarter one 2026”.