Winner: Embraer

Location Sao Paulo, Brazil

Achievement Successfully launching the EMB-145 onto the world market, while battling with privatisation and overcoming heavy losses. The new management which took over Embraer following its privatisation at the end of 1994 faced a seemingly desperate situation. Hit by Brazil's spiralling inflation and a worldwide recession in the airline industry, the state-owned aircraft builder had been averaging losses of $235 million per year and plans for the launch of its crucial new flagship, the EMB-145 50-seat regional jet, had effectively been put on hold.

Yet the team, headed by Mauricio Botelho, who arrived as chief executive in September 1995, has carried out a remarkable transformation in the company's fortunes.

A rigorous restructuring plan has seen the workforce virtually halved and productivity nearly doubled. Losses have been slashed and debts reduced, to the point where Embraer expects to return to the black this year.

Equally important, the company finally saw the EMB-145 enter service. The Awards judging were impressed with the speed and determination that Embraer showed in getting the aircraft into operation. The company invested in building four aircraft to speed the certification effort, and finally saw the EMB-145 win US and Brazilian approvals at the end of 1996. The certification was on target and took only 15 months.

The first four aircraft were duly delivered to Continental Express in December 1996 as part of a $375 million deal for 25 firm orders and another 175 options. Including customers such as British Regional Airlines, Portugalia and France's Regional Airlines, Embraer has to date booked 65 firm orders and 194 options for the EMB-145.

Part of the aircraft's appeal has been a price tag of around $15 million, making it the cheapest regional jet in its class. That is in itself a tribute to the new efficient and entrepreneurial spirit which exists within the company.

Source: Flight International