Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer will soon begin its "fastest ramp-up ever" as it strives to transform from a niche player to a dominant force in the business jet sector by 2015, says the company's executive vice-president for executive aviation, Luís Carlos Affonso.

The push is part of a 10-year market offensive in which the company is pumping $150 million into manufacturing facilities and equipment and customer service programmes.

Embraer today has a 13.6% share of the super mid-size business jet market with its $24.7 million Legacy 600, a derivative of the ERJ-135 regional jet. The aircraft, more than 100 of which have been delivered to owners in 19 countries, competes with the likes of the Bombardier Challenger 300, Dassault Falcon 2000EX and Gulfstream G350.

Joining the Legacy soon will be at least four, perhaps five, new models spanning the business aviation spectrum from the $2.85 million straight-wing Phenom 100 very light jet to the ultra-large cabin, $41 million Lineage 1000, a derivative of the E-190 airliner that will compete with the Airbus Corporate Jet and Boeing Business Jet. In between will be the $6.65 million Phenom 300, a six/seven-passenger swept-wing light jet, and two yet-to-be-named aircraft that will fill the gap between the Phenom 300 and Legacy 600.

Embraer family 
© Embraer   
Embraer is building a family that it hopes will dominate the business jet arena by 2015

Details are sparse on the new models. "We have not defined what to launch and when to launch," says Affonso.

To support the planned production rate of 120-150 Phenoms a year by 2009, Embraer plans to hire 1,500new employees at the company's growing Botucatu plant, where components and structures for the product line are to be built. The demand for skilled workers, which will boost the number of employees at Botucatu to 3,000 by next year, has also spurred the company to sponsor an aeronautical technologies and processes career track at a secondary school in the area,a programme that could generate about 800 new employees a year.

Final assembly for the Phenoms will take place at Gavião Peixoto, home to Embraer's flight-test facilities, interiors shops and wing production for the E-190 and E-195 commercial airliners - and also the site of the world's longest privately owned runway, measuring 5,000m (16,400ft). Final assembly for the Legacy and Lineage models is to be at the company's headquarters in Saõ José dos Campos.

Embraer is seeking to capture almost 30% of the VLJ and light jet market - not a lucrative proposition, given the pricing in these sectors, but one where brand loyalty could pay off later. Embraer estimates that VLJs will account for 23% of business jet deliveries - and just 4% of the total dollar value - over the next 10 years.

Light jets, it estimates, will comprise 22% of the market and 9% of the dollar value over the same period. "We want to capture a big portion of the segment," says Affonso, "and we want these customers to remain with Embraer as they move up, as is traditional, to larger jets." The company hopes to gain 15% of the super mid-size market with the Legacy 600 and 20% of the ultra-large cabin niche with the Lineage 1000.

At the entry level, the Phenom 100 is on track for first flight this month or next, with certification and first deliveries one year later. Most of the 400 firm Phenom orders so far are for the 100 model, says Affonso. Built using production tooling from the outset, the aircraft's aluminium structure is being assembled largely by automatic riveting machines, a technology into which Embraer is pumping an additional $15 million for the Botucatu plant. Designers are targeting a lifetime of 35,000 cycles for the Phenom 100, more than twice the life of its VLJ competitors, says Alexandre Figueiredo, Phenom programme manager.

The Phenom 300 is following about one year behind the Phenom 100, with expected first flight in the middle of next year and first deliveries a year after. The twinjet, complete with swept wing and winglets, is being designed for a lifetime of 28,000 cycles or 35,000h.

Deliveries of the Legacy 600 continue to accelerate, with as many as 35 projected for this year, up from 27 last year and 20 in 2005.

At the top end, Affonso says Embraer has sold "close to 10" Lineage 1000s, and plans to deliver three or four a year for the next decade. The first of the 7,770km (4,200nm)-range aircraft is being assembled in Saõ José dos Campos. Embraer plans to finish the green aircraft in the third quarter for delivery to its US partner PATS Aircraft in Georgetown, Delaware, for the $10-15 million completion process. First customer delivery is expected in mid-2008.

Keeping its new customers in the family will require top-notch customer service, and Embraer is spending $100 million over the next two years to set up four service centres to complement three existing facilities, plus dozens more authorised representatives, all in advance of the first Phenom delivery.

Preparations for Phenom training are also under way through a joint venture with CAE. The first of three full-flight simulators to be located in the USA will be available in Dallas, Texas by mid-2008 and the first European device will be operational in an as-yet undisclosed location in 2009.

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Source: Flight International