Embraer's ambitious 38-month development programme for the RRJ-170 is approaching its first production landmark with the start shortly of fabrication of the lead test aircraft, as initial design attention switches to the stretched ERJ-190.

"We'll begin cutting metal around July or August and start final assembly in April 2001, with the roll-out in the last quarter of the year. It's a very challenging schedule, but we're still working within the agreed time," says Luis Carlos Affonso, ERJ-170/190 programme director.

The first flight is set for before the end of 2001, with joint Brazilian and European certification and initial delivery to Crossair within 12 months. Embraer is mapping out a 1,500-1,800h flight test programme using six pre-series ERJ-170s.

Loads testing will be completed by the end of 2002, while fatigue testing of a second static airframe will extend to three times the jet's 75,000h lifetime.

All six aircraft will be built inside a purpose-designed plant using production tooling and will be later sold. The company has selected a stationary docking system to build the aircraft rather than a moving line now employed to produce the ERJ-135/145. The new 16,000m² (170,000ft²) assembly hangar will be able to house up to seven docks.

"We'll start production with a projected capacity of one to two aircraft a month in 2002, increasing to three in 2003 and four in 2004, based on our expected market share," says Affonso.

Embraer says it is planning for a nominal capacity of up to six a month depending on demand, noting that ERJ-135/145 monthly production will quadruple to 16 by next year.

Final assembly of the first of four pre-series ERJ-190s will start in late 2002, with a first flight set for the third quarter of 2003 and delivery to Crossair in the second quarter of 2004. The first two test aircraft will be built to the larger 108-seat ERJ-190-200 configuration and the final pair as baseline 98-seat -100s. The latter version will fly in 2004 and be available for delivery from mid-2005.

• Continental Express has firmed up another 11 ERJ-145 options for delivery by late 2003. This purchase increases the carrier's order to 161 ERJ-145s, plus fifty 37-seat ERJ-135s, of which 71 have been delivered to date.

Source: Flight International