Embraer expects to make a decision on product enhancements or a new commercial aircraft in 12-18 months.

Company EVP of the airline market Mauro Kern outlined that timeframe during the ISTAT annual conference today in Orlando, Florida, stating the time period to make a decision "could be shorter than that".

Kern says Embraer has several conceptual studies underway examining various scenarios including low- and high-speed turboprops, E-Jet family enhancements and larger aircraft featuring open rotor engine technology. He recently told ATI and Flightglobal that one product under consideration was a stretch of the E-195 internally dubbed the E-195X.

He emphasises that the 2014-2015 timeframe is not the right time to introduce a clean sheet aircraft design since it would heighten competition with Airbus and Boeing, companies that have a "fabulous customer base". Kern says new entrants attempting to compete with the two major airframers would face significant challenges.

With new technology such as the open rotor possibly maturing in the 2020-2025 timeframe, Kern believes aircraft developed using that and other available technologies could produce gains in cash operating costs.

In the short-term, Kern tells ATI and Flightglobal on the sidelines of the ISTAT conference that while Embraer is not engaged in active discussions with United Airlines, the airframer believes the E-190 could play a role in the major carrier's fleet.

United has reportedly invited Airbus, Boeing, Bombardier and Embraer to join discussions regarding a narrowbody order, which the carrier aims to place this year.

Embraer did not compete in the order that Republic Airways Holdings awarded to Bombardier last month for 40 firm 138-seat CS300 CSeries aircraft, says Kern, adding that was a competition to replace the Airbus narrowbodies operated by Republic's subsidiary Frontier Airlines.

Kern says the E-190 continues to play a key role in Republic's fleet. Republic in 2009 opted to purchase 10 E-190s from US Airways, and operates the aircraft from both Frontier's Denver hub and the Milwaukee base of Midwest Airlines. Republic closed on the acquisitions of both Frontier and Midwest in 2009.

Kern, meanwhile, admits there is a large amount of curiosity regarding Embraer's future plans for clean-sheet design or an E-Jet revamp.

"We want to make a mature decision," says Kern, who explains Embraer aims to add value to customers through its product offerings, rather than adopting a "me too" philosophy.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news