An aeronautical engineer who has been Embraer’s executive vice president for almost a decade; Frederico Fleury Curado filled the shoes of one of aerospace’s most charismatic leaders, Mauricio Botelho this April. Liz Moscrop catches up with him before the Paris Air Show.

You have to warm to a CEO who jokes that he used to have hair before helping steer Embraer through the rough ‘80s years. This lightness of touch from someone who, at only 45 years old, has taken the helm of the world’s fourth-largest aerospace company bodes well for the future.


It is a demanding task, and Mauricio Botelho is a tough act to follow, so all eyes will be on Frederico Fleury Curado as he steps up to the plate. However, he is quietly unphased by the task. “I did have a very broad and global role in charge of our whole airlines business and company revenues,” he says. “Switching subjects across all our products is the most different characteristic. I am very excited and learning a lot in my new position. I am confident I can add value.”

He continues: “I have seen Embraer through three phases. I joined as it was growing fast in the second half of the ‘80s and developing huge order backlogs. After that we had three or four years that were intensely difficult. We addressed this positively with our privatisation in December 1994. Mauricio Botelho arrived nine months later, when I was already at Board management level.

“Botelho was a true reflection of a very exciting and rewarding 12-year turnaround, and as a senior manager since the early ‘90s, I was involved with that momentum. I consider the company as a living organism that was sick yesterday and getting stronger. I have lived every moment of the last 16 years, which has not been an easy ride. I used to have hair before I joined!”

The weak US Dollar and the fact that 20% of Embraer’s costs are associated with the Brazilian real currency has impacted the company recently. “In an industry where margins are so tight the 10% devaluation of the real to the US dollar over the last six months has put increasing pressure on us. We have to gain through productivity to offset our higher costs.” Curado says that Embraer has dealt with the glitches in production and supply chain issues that dogged it recently and is on target to meet its target of 165-170 deliveries this year.

Eastern eye
Curado did not become CEO by accident. One of his successes was to set up Embraer’s China operations. The company holds 51% of a venture with government-owned China Aviation Industry Corp called Harbin Embraer Aircraft Industry, which assembles ERJ-145 RJs at a factory in Harbin. Embraer has 66% of the Asia Pacific market for 30 to 120-seat aircraft, a share it intends to keep.

Curado is pleased with the operations and says: “There is an incipient regional airlines market for smaller scale airliners, so there are robust opportunities for growth. We have 125 firm aircraft orders in the region. I don’t think this trend will reverse. Asia will play an increasing role, also for our E-Jets family.”

China is a tough market to crack, but Curado is confident that Embraer will thrive there. “Our JV in China was a strategy in line with the Chinese government’s strategy. We have put spare parts in the region and employ 250, 90% of whom are Chinese nationals. We also elected to be in Singapore, as geographically it has connectivity and is a business friendly environment. We have placed a 170/190 simulator there to support local training.”

He believes that China will emerge as a key player in the aircraft manufacturing sector, but that will take time to evolve. “It is a challenge to build an aircraft. It takes more than a design. You need market intelligence, customer preferences, and ability to create a machine that responds to those requirements for 20 years. You need technical support, spare parts – you have to have all that in place to become a global player. The Chinese have the technology. They also have the willingness and funds, so it is likely to happen some time, but not in the short term.”

The CEO is quick to highlight the emergence of another major market. “We have had three major successes with Saudi Arabian Airlines, Royal Jordanian Airlines and EgyptAir.

We have seen strong growth in the Middle East.” He also flags up Embraer’s increasing focus on service provision. “By building our services envelope we are maximising our results. Our commercial sector is our DNA, but our business aircraft design has been a successful and rewarding strategy for us.” He continues: “There has been extraordinary acceptance of the Phenoms and the Lineage. We have sold more than 400 Phenoms before it has even flown.”

Embraer went green before many manufacturers with its tiny crop duster the Ipanema, which, like most of the cars on Brazil’s road, runs on ethanol. Although the aircraft represents a tiny fraction of Embraer’s revenues, Curado takes environmental concerns seriously. “The green trend is irreversible and happening very fast. The issue is top of every executive’s agenda.”

So at the beginning of his tenure, what does Curado aim to achieve? “The answer is simple. I want eventually to hand over to my successor a better company than I took over. Not that I had a bad company to inherit. I will do my utmost to fulfil our commitment to grow – our people being a key element of this vision. This is the way to achieve perpetuity for the business.”

Source: Flight Daily News