Embraer and Bombardier are focused on quite different timelines at this year's Farnborough.

With its 98-seat 190 taking a break from an intensive flight test programme to participate in the flying display here, Embraer's attention is very much on the here and now.

Bombardier, on the other hand, is talking about potential future projects, with a new team examining the business case for a family of aircraft in the 100-150 seat range. Airbus and Boeing also have a hand in this market with their relatively slow-selling A318 and 717 jetliners.

"With the Embraer 170, 190 and 195 we are closing a gap identified some years ago," says Orlando Jose Ferreira Neto, the Brazilian manufacturer's director of market intelligence. "The market gap for aircraft of 70-110 seats is right here, right now."


Taking on the big two is definitely not Embraer's idea of a fight worth fighting. "Airbus and Boeing start their product families at 110-115 seats," says Neto. "We decided there was a place for a right-sized product with the right economics and right performance in the 70-110 seat range. It is a gap that does not interfere much with the other manufacturers."

Bombardier, too, believes its proposed airliner will not tread on the toes of Airbus and Boeing. However, its narrowbody study is concentrating on aircraft larger than Embraer's offerings, starting at 110 seats and growing to 135. It is being developed by the New Commercial Aircraft (NCA) programme team headed by ex-CAE and Boeing veteran Gary Scott. "At the end of the day, we will not be competing directly with Airbus and Boeing," he says.

Bombardier argues that both Boeing's 737 and Airbus's A320 family aircraft are optimised for greater than 150 seats. Says Scott: "We don't see anybody building an aircraft specifically designed for the 110-115 seater marketplace" - which is what Bombardier is proposing to do.

This is not the first time the Canadian manufacturer has eyed this market. In the late 1990s, it looked at creating an all-new 100-seat aircraft family, dubbed the BRJ-X, to rival Embraer's 170/190 and the now-defunct Fairchild 728/928. However it shelved the plan in 2000 in favour of stretching the CRJ family to 90 seats with the CRJ900.


Ever since, Bombardier has faced constant questions over revisiting this project.

One reason for the company's renewed interest is its confidence that the 100-150 seat aircraft market appears healthy. Scott points to industry estimates of a demand for close to 6,000 aircraft, worth $250 billion, over the next 20 years.

"All my customers say that today there are 5,000 aircraft flying in this space," says Scott, noting that many are older types coming up for replacement in the next 10-15 years such as DC-9s, MD-80s, 737 Classics, Fokker 100s and BAe 146s.

Bombardier is looking at an aircraft family starting at 110-115 seats in size, with a subsequent stretch to 130-135 seats. The aircraft will be optimised to fly routes up to transcontinental range, giving it the capability of operating efficiently between the west and east coasts of the US.

The NCA will gather all available new technologies to produce an aircraft that is at least 15% better in terms of operating economics than any other on the market today, such as the Embraer 190, 717, 737-600 and A318, says Scott. It will also be 20% better than the older generation aircraft.

New generation engines will be a big driver in deciding whether the NCA becomes a reality, and Bombardier is talking with all three engine manufacturers on the engine possibilities for this aircraft.

"We are finding that many of the things Boeing is using on the 7E7 will be available to us," says Scott.

The final element in making Bombardier confident in the NCA is its ability to create a strong financial case. Today Bombardier is working with a figure of $2 billion to develop the NCA. It is looking to finance about a third of this amount itself, with a further third coming from risk-share partner suppliers and the rest from a government partner.

For Bombardier the NCA is a "natural extension of its airframe capability", says Scott. It will be the biggest civil aerospace programme ever launched by the manufacturer. Scott is building the NCA feasibility team with a view to presenting its recommendations to the board in the first quarter of 2005. A launch could happen around mid-year and the aircraft would be in service no later than 2010.

And Bombardier believes it might have the market to itself for a time. "We don't see anybody putting out a new aircraft specifically designed for this market in the near term," says Scott.

Embraer's Neto says his company is not looking at an aircraft family larger than the 190 to enter the 110-150 seat segment. "The market has two strong players serving this market very well," he says.

Embraer believes there is plenty of demand for its preferred 100-seater product. To date, the 190 has 100 orders from JetBlue Airways plus another 10 from an undisclosed commercial customer, while the 195 has 15 firm orders from Swiss.

The JetBlue order is just the first of several Embraer hopes to grab from US low-cost carriers.


Embraer's analysis shows that today there are some 1,100 markets in the US served by jets ranging from 50 seats up to the 149 seats of a one-class 737-700. It believes that 600-800 of these markets could be better served with a 70-100-seater, says Neto.

Network carriers such as Alitalia and US Airways are already beginning to take delivery of Embraer 170s to address this issue, says Neto. A longer-term trend that Embraer sees is regional carriers naturally growing into 100-seaters.

Overall, the manufacturer sees a demand for 1,250 aircraft in the 100-seater category in the next 10 years, with a further 1,700 aircraft in the 10 years after that.



Source: Flight Daily News