Embraer chief executive Fred Curado says the manufacturer does not expect to decide on launching a new aircraft programme for 18-24 months, and that the economic downturn could further delay this decision.

Potential new jets and turboprops continue to be studied, says Curado, but he adds that it is premature to predict when Embraer will be ready to pull the trigger because the competitive landscape and timeframe for the availability of new engine technology is unclear.

"The whole crisis has somehow slowed down the whole process," he says, because manufacturers and airlines are more reluctant to make commitments in the current economic environment. "This crisis doesn't help to clarify long-term visions of airlines," he says. "It takes a little bit of pressure away from a short-term decision."

Embraer has been studying a possible new aircraft based on the E-170/190 or launching an entire new airliner that could compete against the Bombardier CSeries. But he says "when and how to launch are still dependent on pieces of the puzzle which are still moving".

Moving pieces of the puzzle are Airbus and Boeing, since neither airframer has decided when to launch a new narrowbody and the size to target. "This whole competitive landscape is a moving piece and there are two major players that haven't decided their move. It's very unclear," Curado says.

He adds that Embraer would like to know what Airbus and Boeing are doing first because it prefers to avoid developing a product that competes against the two giants. "We can't entertain looking at the higher end of the product line without looking at Airbus and Boeing," Curado explains. "It's not our intention to go head to head with Boeing and Airbus."

The other "moving piece" is engine technology, because Embraer does not yet have "sufficient knowledge" to judge which new engine concept will be most successful. He points out that new geared turbofan technology being touted by Pratt & Whitney is unproven and General Electric and Rolls-Royce have other ideas. "It's not that common to have this clash of concepts," Curado says. "The airlines more or less in my perception have similar concerns."

Curado says it is also "premature" for Embraer to decide on whether its next commercial aircraft programme should be a jet or turboprop. "It's not clear. We've been speaking to many airlines. Some are absolutely pro-turboprop. Some are absolutely against turboprop," he says.

He points out Embraer is also not in any hurry to decide on a new aircraft programme because the E-170 and E-190 are still "new airplanes", having been certificated earlier this decade. "They are performing quite well and making money for the airlines. It's not like we have an obsolete and old-fashioned product line," Curado says.

Source: Flight International