Embraer is trying to decide if the market exists for a super efficient 2,000nm range airplane in the 130- to 150-seat segment, according to Bank of America/Merrill Lynch Research analyst Ronald Epstein.
"I said they would look at it, study it," said Epstein in an interview today with Air Transport Intelligence and Flightglobal. "They are a very clever company and they will move forward very carefully."
Such an aircraft would provide significantly less range than the 2,950nm range of Bombardier's 110/130-seat CSeries aircraft, but would have "less weight, less fuel and less maximum takeoff weight", noted Epstein.
Furthermore, he said, "There is one argument that might be true that the CSeries may have too much range for an aircraft of its size."
Embraer has been studying whether or not to re-engine its E-Jets or develop a larger capacity clean sheet design aircraft. A decision is expected to come by year-end. If the Brazilian airframer decides there is a market "for a really efficient 2,000nm airplane" it can "either stretch the E-195 and put new engines on it or do a whole new airframe with cockpit commonality [with the E-Jets]", said Epstein.
He added: "I'm not sure [what Embraer will do]. I think they're trying to figure that out too."
Whatever it decides, Epstein is confident that Embraer's customers will respond favourably to a 130- to 150-seater from the manufacturer. "When you think about the market, if you can go to 60 of your E-190/195 operators and say, 'we can offer an airframe with cockpit commonality that seats 20 or more passengers, do you want it', I'll bet they'll put up their hands and say 'sure'. So I think that is what they're trying to mull over."
Epstein believes Embraer is in a "pretty enviable" position as it considers it options because Airbus, Boeing and Bombardier have defined their plans for next generation narrowbodies.
"In a funny way, I think they are in catbird seat, because all the cards are on the table and now they get to decide to do with their hand. Bombardier went first. Then Airbus did a beautiful strategic thing with the A320neo [new engine option]. Boeing got backed into it with the most ungraceful launch of a [re-engined] airplane back in the hotel room in Dallas. And then there is Embraer. They have all the pieces and just need to figure out what to do. I think they are in a really good position."