The Embraer EMB-145's Farnborough debut will help to focus attention on regional airliners.

Max Kingsley-Jones/LONDON

WHILE THE 1996 show is the first occasion on which the three major airliner manufacturers - Airbus Industrie, Boeing and McDonnell Douglas (MDC) - will be exhibiting their latest commercial wares at Farnborough simultaneously, the main focus will be the battle in the 50-seater market, as Embraer of Brazil (3/E10) displays its EMB-145 in Europe for the first time.

The fourth EMB-145 (pre-production aircraft 003) will be exhibited fully equipped, with the C&D Interiors-designed passenger cabin and galley. Following its debut at the show, the aircraft will undertake a month-long sales tour of Europe. This will encompass demonstrations to airlines in more than ten countries, and will culminate with an exhibition at the European Regional Airlines General Assembly gathering in Hanover in early October.


The 50-seat EMB-145 is coming to the end of its flight-test and certification programme, and according to Mauricio Botelho, Embraer's chief executive, the company now holds 62 firm orders and 218 options for the aircraft.

Embraer is still expecting Brazilian CTA and US Federal Aviation Administration certification to be awarded in October, with European Joint Aviation Authorities approval following before the end of 1996. First deliveries in Europe will be made early in 1997 to launch customer Regional Airlines of France.

Embraer's regional-jet programme has been running for seven years, having been announced at the 1989 Paris Air Show. Although development is behind the original schedule, the regional jet comes to the market just as this sector of the industry is gaining the confidence to begin expanding again. The EMB-145 has always been touted as "a jet for turboprop costs" and has therefore been in head-to-head competition not only with the Canadair Regional Jet, but also the Saab 2000 high-speed turboprop.

There are several acquisition competitions now under way in the EMB-145 category, with the most eagerly awaited involving the US majors' feeder operators Continental Express and American Eagle. Houston-based Continental Express is rumoured to be planning a contract for more than 100 aircraft (including options) and more details on this deal could emerge at the show.

Rivalry within Europe in this market is also intense, with several regional airlines evaluating 50-seat aircraft. Top of the list is Manx Airlines, which is expected to conclude a deal soon for eight aircraft, and the prize for the successful candidate is the British Airways logo on its customer list, as Manx operates as a BA Express carrier.

Embraer's North American rival, Canadair (4/C10), is now a regular visitor to Farnborough, its Regional Jet having had its debut at the 1992 show. The Canadian aircraft has already established itself in the marketplace - 150 aircraft have been sold, including over 50 to five European customers, and close to 130 have been delivered worldwide. Lufthansa is the largest European operator, and it is the German carrier's latest example which will be on display.

There has been much speculation that Bombardier will launch the stretched 70-seat CRJ-X derivative of the Regional Jet during the show. The manufacturer has already selected the 58-67kN (13,000-15,000lb)-thrust General Electric CF34-8C engine to power the new model, which will also have a new, larger, wing and empennage. Service entry is targeted for the end of the decade.

While sales of Canadair's Regional Jet have swelled since the last Farnborough show in 1994, the same cannot be said for its European rival, the Saab 2000. Saab has added just a handful of orders since then for this 50-seat turboprop, which aspires to the high-speed performance and low cabin-noise levels of a jet-powered aircraft . This year's show will be a low-key affair for Saab Aircraft, the commercial division of the Swedish manufacturer, which decided several years ago not to participate officially at the major European air shows, and instead concentrate on the regional exhibitions (Saab corporately has a stand, 1/A9).


At the other end of the spectrum, Farnborough visitors will have the unique opportunity to view airliners from the production lines of the "big three" manufacturers.

Two years ago, the prospect of a Boeing 777/Airbus A340 show-down at Farnborough was thwarted when, after much deliberation, Boeing (3/A18) decided that it could not afford to spare a 777 from the flight-test programme. With the type having now been in service for over a year, the US manufacturer will exhibit aircraft WA001, the first 777 built.

This 777-200, which bears the Boeing house colours, has borne the brunt of the flight-test and certification programme, as well as many demonstrations, over the past two years. WA001 is now being used to test the new, high-thrust, Pratt & Whitney PW4090 engine, and Boeing says that its appearance at Farnborough will be this aircraft's last public display. Boeing last exhibited a new airliner at Farnborough in 1984 when it displayed the then-new 737-300.

Since the last show at Farnborough, Boeing has added significantly to the 777's customer list, and formally launched the stretched -300 model. This 370-seat version, which will enter service in mid-1998 with Cathay Pacific, could be joined by a smaller derivative, the 260-seat -100X, from the turn of the century. Boeing is evaluating its strategy for new product developments, which also include proposed stretched derivatives of the 757 and 767-300, and the 747-500/600 growth models.

The US manufacturer is hotly tipped to announce some form of agreement with potential launch customers for the 747-500/600, which would enable it to proceed to the launch stage later this year or early in 1997.

Airbus (3/B2) will have two aircraft at the show for the week, an A319 and A340, both sporting the house livery. An A330 in Malaysia Airlines colours may also make an appearance.

The opening day of Farnborough '94 was marked by many claims and counter-claims between Boeing and Airbus, and this trend continued, with increased tempo, in 1995 at the Paris show. If, as expected, Boeing does make an announcement about the new 747, it will undoubtedly put pressure on Airbus to reassure the industry that it is committed to its own very-large aircraft, the proposed A3XX. Airbus is now concentrating on larger A340 derivatives, which centre around the re-winged, re-engined, 375-seat A340-600. The six-month engine design-study agreement signed with General Electric expires in October, and an update on the proposal will probably be provided during the show.

MDC (4/F2) could use the venue to announce new customers for its 100-seat MD-95 twinjet. ValuJet is the sole customer, so far, for this second-generation DC-9 development. The MD-95 cabin mock-up will be on MDC's stand. The manufacturer has now delayed a decision to launch its proposed MD-XX growth derivative of the MD-11 until the beginning of 1997, but more information on this stretched 375-seat project may be forthcoming.

A China Northern Airlines MD-90 will be displayed at the show, the first MDC airliner to be exhibited at Farnborough since 1988, when the unducted-fan-powered MD-80 appeared.


This year's show will see the debut in Europe of the former ATR, Avro and Jetstream products under the umbrella of the Aero International (Regional) (AI(R)) (3/B4) consortium, officially created at the beginning of 1996.

The group will display four products, including a Crossair Avro RJ100, Continental Express ATR 42-500, and AI(R)-liveried ATR 72-210A and Jetstream 41. European certification of the ATR 72-210, which has increased weights, Pratt & Whitney Canada PW127s and six-bladed propellers, is expected in September. The consortium unveiled its proposals for a new family of regional jets at the US Regional Aircraft Association show in May, and further details could emerge during the show. AI(R) now holds a strong position in the market for the larger regional airliners, as its old rival, Fokker, is being wound up.

Fairchild's (2/A9) new German division Dornier, acquired recently from Daimler-Benz Aerospace, will be present, displaying its 328 regional turboprop. The status of the proposed stretched 50-seat derivative of the 30-seat 328 is unclear, with the feasibility of developing a turbofan-powered derivative being studied.

De Havilland (4/C10), Canadair's Bombardier Associate, has already launched its own contribution to the 70-seat regional market - the high-speed Dash 8-400 turboprop. This considerably modified derivative of the existing Dash 8-300 was given the go-ahead in 1995 at Paris, but few orders have been announced to date. More contracts could emerge during the week.

The Russian airliner contingent this year includes some familiar aircraft in the form of the Ilyushin Il-96M and Tupolev Tu-204 jet airliners, and the Ilyushin Il-114 turboprop. The newcomer is the stretched, re-engined, Il-76MF freighter on which flight-testing began in August 1995.

Tupolev (3/E14) will again display the Perm PS-90A-powered version of the Tu-204, which is now in service in Russia. A Rolls-Royce RB.211-powered version is also being tested, the prototype of which appeared at a previous Farnborough show. Prospects for Tu-204 sales have improved, with the setting up of the well-funded Aviastar Asia consortium to assist with customer financing. A short-fuselage model, the Tu-234, is under development, but has yet to be flown.

Ilyushin will give the Il-96M, a stretched, P&W PW2337-powered derivative of the Il-96-300, equipped with Rockwell-Collins avionics, its second appearance at Farnborough. Twenty aircraft are on order for Aeroflot Russian International Airlines. The high level of USA-manufactured content has seen the deal receive US Exim Bank funding support.

In summary, the 1996 show promises much variety on the airliner front and, if the rumours are to be believed, some interesting developments can be expected.

Source: Flight International