Doug Cameron/LONDON

EMBRAER SAYS that it has secured a US launch customer for the EMB-145 regional jet and expects to deliver two units to the airline in December.

The US carrier has not been named, but is understood to be Atlantic Coast Airlines, a United Express carrier, which operates a fleet of 55 AI(R) Jetstream 32 and 41 turboprops. Embraer also says that two further regional jets will be delivered to an unnamed Brazilian carrier by the end of the year.

Mauricio Botelho, Embraer's chief executive, says that firm orders for the aircraft stand at 62, with 218 options, and that 29 aircraft are expected to be delivered to 14 customers in 1997. Production is due to rise to four a month by the end of the year.

The original plan for a production run of 400 aircraft - with a 200-unit break-even point - has been revised to more than 600. Botelho says that the rate could be raised to as many as six a month.

Securing a US launch customer is viewed as vital to the programme and the company remains in discussions with Continental Airlines about a 24-aircraft order to replace the US airline's turboprop fleet of EMB-120 Brasilias, AI(R) ATR 42s and an ATR 72. A tour of 23 US cities was completed in June and Botelho says that the response has been encouraging.

Certification for the EMB-145, is expected to be completed, in the USA and Brazil in October. European Joint Aviation Authorities approval is expected by January 1997, in time for the delivery of three aircraft, to the European launch customer, Nantes-based Regional Airlines. Botelho says that the process has progressed smoothly, exceeding original parameters by 1-8%.

Interest in the EMB-145 has been driven by a selling price of around $15 million, some $4 million lower than that of the competing Canadair Regional Jet. Em- braer has set up a wholly owned finance subsidiary, Embraer Credit (ECC), to arrange financing for the -145 and its turboprops.

Source: Flight International