For Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer, launches and order announcements have become a matter of routine at the major air shows.

Paris '99 seems set to follow the pattern, with expectations that the company will make at least one new customer announcement and also formally launch its 70- and 90-seater regional jet family.

Swiss regional carrier Crossair has selected Embraer to provide its new regional jet fleet and is expected to give details of that decision at a press conference on Monday.

The order will also make Crossair the launch customer for the ERJ-170 and ERJ-190. The airline made its choice after evaluating both the Embraer aircraft and the Fairchild-Dornier 728JET and 928JET.

Apparently Crossair did not seriously consider Bombardier, even though the Canadian manufacturer has been successful with its 70-seater and is developing a 90-seater regional jet.

Crossair says it selected Embraer chiefly because of the possibility of a package solution. The airline may be interested in also purchasing the smaller ERJ-135 and ERJ-145, with 37 and 49 seats respectively.

Crossair is believed to be unconvinced that Fairchild will actually go ahead with its 40-seater 428JET, even though it has customers for the 328JET and 728JET.

For Mauricio Botelho, Embraer president and chief executive officer, this latest launch caps a stream of celebrations in what has become a remarkable company turnaround story.

Since a privatisation plan was completed at the end of 1994, the company has gone from strength to strength. In 1998 it turned the previous year's $13 million loss into a $92 million profit.

Botelho says he expects revenues in 1999 to top $2 billion. "This is the year of the -145," says Botelho. Orders now stand at 255 firm and 240 options, with 125 aircraft delivered. The -135 has clocked up 134 firm and 175 orders, with certification scheduled for this month and first deliveries to begin in July.

As well as including the -135 and -145 in the flying display during the show, Embraer is featuring a full-scale mockup of the -190 cabin on its stand.

Botelho says the company will invest $850 million in developing the -170/-190 family, which will be available as a 70-seater, 98-seater and 108-seater. From formal go-ahead to certification and first delivery, Embraer anticipates a 38-month programme.

"We are looking at the future very confidently," says Botelho. "We are focusing our operations on customer satisfaction because we understand that this has to be a main priority - a larger priority, even, than a new product.

"Eventually, I think we will have to jump out of the box and not be content with the existing box. We are studying the possibility of setting up a new customer service business unit and we are also looking at our existing products to see what enhancements may be possible."

Among possibilities being studied, Embraer is considering corporate jet versions of the -135 and the -170.

Source: Flight Daily News