Embraer has confirmed its intentions to develop a family of small regional jets which would include new 37- and 70-seat aircraft on either side of its EMB-145 50-seater.

The Brazilian aircraft manufacturer hopes to be able officially to launch the 37-seater, which will be known as the EMB-135, at the Paris air show in June and, possibly, also the EMB-170 70-seater. First deliveries of the EMB-135 could occur within 30 months of launch, says president Mauricio Botelho.

According to an interview with Botelho in April's edition of Flight International sister magazine Airline Business, the company is convinced of a strong future for small, jet-powered, aircraft. "The passenger, our final customer, is willing to fly jets and refusing to fly turboprops," says Botelho. To meet that demand, Embraer is working on what Botelho describes as the "Embraer jet family".

Studies on the -135, according to Botelho, are "very advanced" and launch should be possible by the time of the Paris show because the aircraft is basically a scaled-down version of the three-abreast-seating -145. The -170, however, would have an all-new wider fuselage, but Botelho seems confident that a launch could still occur by the time of the show, or, at the latest, by the end of 1997. First deliveries are being slated for 42 months after launch.

"Our big concern here is the market, because the 70-seater is placed in the uncomfortable position of being too close to 100-seat aircraft and yet in the same range as the 50-seater. I don't think there will be a very big market but, if it has a high grade of commonality and a reasonable price, then there are possibilities," says Botelho.

Embraer's preliminary studies on the -170 indicate that the aircraft would have four-abreast seating, a wing that would be largely common with that of the -145, but with a 610mm (2ft) wing-root extension and leading-edge slats, and would be powered by a 45kN (10,000lb)-thrust growth version of the Allison Engine AE3007.

For the EMB-135, two fuselage sections fore and aft of the -145 wing would be taken out and new plugs inserted. A de-rated version of the AE3007, or another powerplant, are being considered.

The Embraer push comes as Fairchild Dornier prepares to reveal launch details of the 328JET, a turbofan-powered version of its 328 turboprop, on 18 March.

The 32-seat regional jet, powered by Pratt & Whitney Canada PW306/9 turbofans, will be the first of its type in the market, which has until now been the domain of propeller-driven aircraft.

The company expects to fly the first prototype aircraft in January 1998, with entry-into-service a year later. Fairchild Dornier estimates a market for over 350 328JETs in airline and corporate versions over the next 15 years.

Market studies and pre-development work are continuing on the 50-seat derivative, the 428JET, ahead of a launch decision.

Source: Flight International