A proposed stretch of Embraer's largest-capacity commercial jet has been dubbed the E-195X by the manufacturer, which expects to decide whether to launch the variant - or potentially another type - by mid-2011.

During an exclusive interview today with ATI, Embraer executive vice-president airline market Mauro Kern confirmed that the stretch under study by the Brazilian airframer is informally called the E-195X. "It doesn't have a final name right now," says Kern. "We have been in discussions with many different airlines and are assessing interest in such an aircraft."

A source with knowledge of the situation says Embraer responded to a request for proposals to replace American Airlines' McDonnell Douglas MD-80s with the so-called E-195X.

Asked to respond to this information, American says: "We talk with lots of people about lots of things all the time, but until, if and when, those talks actually result in anything worth announcing, we don't disclose whether there were talks or not."

The carrier notes that "all our 737-800 aircraft are designed to ultimately replace MD-80s that will be retired".

Embraer confirmed last year that it has been gauging market interest in a slightly larger aircraft than the current 115-seat E-195, not only using the current platform, but also a clean-sheet design.

A 130-seater from Embraer would pose head-on competition to the Pratt & Whitney geared turbofan-powered Bombardier CSeries.

Embraer's Kern today declined to talk specifically about the company's conversations with airlines or about the proposed size of the E-195X, saying only that it "is slightly bigger than the E-195".

With regard to Embraer's studies into a clean-sheet design, the airframer is "talking to the engine manufacturers" and exploring "several different possibilities", including open rotor technology, says Kern, noting too that Embraer is also studying turboprop designs.

A new design aircraft would not be delivered until "mid-second half of this decade", he says.

Embraer's "best estimate" is that it will have a decision on whether to launch a new derivative or programme in "12 to 18 months", by the mid-2011 timeframe.

"When the time comes for us to make a decision and launch, we will try to position [the aircraft] as very competitive," says Kern, noting that Embraer is keeping on eye on "the newcomers, the competition and we have Boeing and Airbus making some decisions on what to do next".

The airframer may also opt not to move forward with a larger commercial aircraft. "We're not certain today that we will bring something larger than the E-195," says the Embraer executive.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news