Embraer is beginning deliveries of the 170 regional jet to launch operators US Airways and LOT Polish Airlines, after finally receiving certification for the 70-seater.

The manufacturer had originally intended to deliver the first 170 in December 2002, to then-launch operator Crossair/Swiss International Air Lines. Since then the schedule has slipped by more than a year - primarily due to avionics and flight-control software issues - and the Swiss carrier has restructured and postponed its order.

US Airways became launch operator when it placed its orders for 85 170s last year, and its regional arm MidAtlantic Airways had been due to receive its first aircraft in November until a late postponement in certification.

As a result, there are several completed 170s awaiting delivery at its plant in S‹o Jos‚ dos Campos, and Embraer hopes to hand over 11 aircraft before the end of February. Deliveries to Alitalia Express will start in March, and "60 170s should be handed over this year", says Embraer senior vice-president engineering and new product development Luis Carlos Affonso.

Affonso says that six pre-series and one production aircraft were involved in the test programme: "We have accumulated around 3,000h of flying, of which around 2,200-2,500 were for flight testing and certification, against an original target of 1,800-2,000h."

The test programme included 200 flying hours of function of reliability trials required for certification, as well as an additional 100h of "maturity" tests to ensure that the aircraft is ready for revenue services, says Affonso. He adds: "There are Embraer on-site support teams at each airline consisting of pilots as well as development engineers able to deal with fly-by-wire, flight management system and avionics problems." Affonso says a team has been set up at São José dos Campos comprising engineers from the 170 development programme that will provide dedicated support for the in-service fleet.

Source: Flight International