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The fruits of Embraer’s industrial expansion into Portugal will be highly visible at this year’s Farnborough air show. The Brazilian manufacturer's latest aircraft trio – the midsize Legacy 500 business jet, the KC-390 military tanker transport and E190-E2 regional airliner, all of which will be in the static park – feature a large number of structures manufactured at its facilities in the Iberian country.

Its investment in Portugal began in 2005 when it acquired a stake, along with what was then EADS, in state-owned maintenance specialist OGMA. That relationship was augmented in 2012 with the absorption of the EADS holding, giving it a controlling 65% stake in the business, located in Alverca, around 15min west of Lisbon.

That initial move was very much designed to give Embraer an MRO footprint in Europe to support the growing fleet of ERJ-145s on the continent, but also brought with it a small aerostructures business.

This had grown through offsets on the Portuguese government’s defence purchases – hence OGMA’s presence on a number of programmes including the Lockheed Martin C-130 transport and F-16 fighter, and AgustaWestland AW101.

E190-E2 at FIA16

E190-E2 arrives at Farnborough


However, that list now includes the Pilatus PC-12 (fuselage, wings and vertical stabiliser) and Airbus Defence & Space C295 (fuselage parts) and the operation represented 30% of OGMA’s €188 million ($208 million) turnover in 2015.

It has also expanded its production capabilities, graduating from simple metallic components to more complex composite parts. And with those enhanced skills has come a deeper presence on Embraer programmes, particularly the KC-390, for which it was selected by Embraer in 2011 to make sponsons, elevators, wing trailing edge panels, and centre fuselage panels

“For sure the KC-390 is a very important programme for us,” says OGMA chief executive Rodrigo Rosa. “We have participated since the conception of the product,” he says. “It has been similar on other programmes, but we have not been involved so early before.”

With its MRO operation still representing the lion’s share of the business – C-130 overhaul is a particular speciality – that expertise will also be applied to the KC-390. Portugal has a letter of intent for the acquisition of six of the jet-powered transports, and these would almost certainly be overhauled in Alverca, says Rosa.

It has re-invested some €10m over each of the last three years, with the latest project – a new paint hangar – due to become operational later in the summer. This can also accommodate the KC-390, notes Rosa.

Meanwhile, 100km to the west in the sleepy town of Évora, Embraer’s newest Portuguese investment is beginning to ramp up output.

It seems a location more suited for tourism than aerospace, but with its medieval walls and Roman temple and aqueduct, the locals clearly know a thing or two about complex structures.

Embraer announced the creation of the facility in 2008, a total investment of €177 million, and began construction two years later, with the two manufacturing subsidiaries – Embraer Compósitos and Embraer Metálicas – starting operations in 2013.

Production was initially confined to the Legacy 450 and 500 business jets, for which it manufactures the composite empennage and metal wings, but this has since expanded to include components for aircraft in all three of Embraer’s divisions: business aviation, defence, and commercial aviation.

The Compósitos plant is also building the composite tail assembly for the KC-390, and its sister factory, Embraer Métalicas, is manufacturing wing skins for both the airlifter – at 18.4m (60ft)-long, the largest part Embraer has ever produced – and the current generation E175 and re-engined E2-series, currently in its flight-test phase.

In addition, the company is to invest a further €93 million at the plant – €63.6 million for Métalicas and €30 million for Compósitos – to support the E2 programme, this will include a dedicated manufacturing for the composite horizontal stabiliser and outboard flap for the E175-E2.

“We are trying to put Évora on the aerospace map of the world, or at least Europe,” says João Pedro Taborda, Embraer director of external relations for the EMEA region.

“We want to focus on large and complex parts and structures and want to continue along our path in terms of involving these two plants as early as possible in Embraer programmes,” he says.

While output will largely be confined to Embraer, Taborda does not rule out also working for other OEMs or Tier 1 suppliers. “Our line will be full, but there are specific technologies where we have capacity available where we can work with [other] OEMs in specific cases,” he says. A partnership could additionally help it “learn faster” it terms of new manufacturing technologies, he adds.

Although only the Legacy 450 and 500 are currently in service, Embraer has a hectic development path over the next few years. The KC-390 will be the first to enter service in early 2018, followed by the 97-114-seat E190-E2 later that year, with the 120-146-seat E195-E2 and 80-90-seat E175-E2 arriving at 12 month intervals. That, in turn, means a significant ramp up of activity at Évora.

So far it has built components for the two flight-test prototypes of the KC-390 and a single static test article. Machining of the wing skins for the initial customer aircraft – one of 28 destined for the Brazilian air force – has begun, with these to be shipped in September or October. The vertical stabiliser will follow in early 2017.

And on the E-Jets, five shipsets for the E190-E2 programme have been sent to the final assembly line in São José dos Campos – four for the flight-test fleet and a fifth for ground tests. So far a single prototype of the re-winged, re-engined aircraft is flying, although two more will join the fleet this year.

In addition, assembly of the first of two flight-test E195-E2s is under way, ahead of a maiden sortie next year, and the first metal cut on the E175-E2 took place on 26 June.

Source: Flight Daily News