Embraer now plans to complete flight testing and deliver the first production version of the KC-390 to the Brazilian air force up to six months late in the first half of 2019, a company executive says on 31 July.
The nine-year-old development programme for the twin-engined tanker-transport had been on track until an “operational issue” caused the first of two flight test aircraft to overrun a runway in Brazil, leading to heavy damage to the landing gear and fuselage, Embraer says.
Embraer had planned to deliver the third KC-390 to the Brazilian air force by the end of the year, but that aircraft will now be diverted to help the company complete the flight test campaign in the absence of the first prototype, says chief financial officer Nelson Salgado. The fourth KC-390 to roll-off Embraer’s assembly line will now be the first of 28 aircraft delivered to the Brazilian air force.
The months-long delay triggered by the runway overrun in May also caused Embraer to report a R$459 million ($127 million) special charge in the second quarter, Salgado says.
The investigation of the runway incident continues, but Embraer remains adamant that it was not fault of the aircraft design.
“The [investigation] report hasn’t been concluded,” Salgado says. “What we can say now is it was due to an operational issue. It has nothing to do with the aircraft itself. [But] it doesn’t have to be human error.”
To underscore that the runway incident in May was an isolated event, the second KC-390 test aircraft continuing flying after the incident and performed six flight demonstrations at the Farnborough air show in July, Salgado adds.
The Brazilian air force announced reaching initial operational capability for the KC-390 on 20 December. Brazil’s ANAC civil aviation authority, the US Federal Aviation Administration and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) granted type certification to the commercial configuration of the KC-390 on 28 February. The flight test programme required to achieve military certification is now 96% complete, Salgado says.
“Although we cannot guarantee there will not arise any new issue, we do not expect anything will happen” to cause further delays, Salgado says.
Meanwhile, Embraer also announced plans in the second quarter to form a joint venture with Boeing to collaborate on defence programmes, including “especially” the KC-390.
If the proposed joint venture is finalised, Boeing should help Embraer market the KC-390 to a new set of customers. It’s not clear how much Embraer has attempted to sell the KC-390 to the US military or governments in the Middle East, but Boeing has much stronger ties to those customers than Embraer’s defence business.
“We believe that this new JV will open very important markets which we had not counted on previously,” Salgado says.
Portugal, one of five development partners on the KC-390 outside Brazil, opened negotiations in June 2017 to purchase five aircraft with an option for a sixth, but the order is yet to be confirmed.
“We are hoping to conclude [that transaction] in a short period,” Salgado says.