Embraer is confident that its aircraft will be able to hold its own against competitors from China, Russia, and in particular the Mitsubishi MRJ regional jet from Japan.

The Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (Comac) is developing the ARJ21, which is undergoing flight tests, while the first Russian Sukhoi Superjet is due to be delivered later this year. The biggest challenge to incumbents like Embraer and Bombardier, however, comes from the Pratt & Whitney PW1000 GTF-powered MRJ.

Its first flight is due in 2012, with first delivery scheduled for 2014. Mitsubishi Aircraft is planning an 88-seat MRJ 90 and 76-seat MRJ 70, is considering a stretched 100-seat variant, and has received orders from launch customer All Nippon Airways (ANA) and US carrier Trans States Holdings.

"There will be some competition in the regional jet market from the new entrants, and the Chinese and Russian jets should be popular in their home markets," says Mauro Kern, Embraer's executive vice-president airline market.

"Mitsubishi is coming up with a different engine concept and promising aggressive numbers and savings. It will be interesting to see what they finally deliver.

"The reality is that our E-175 is very competitive against what Mitsubishi promises with the MRJ90. The E-175 is available today, and able to compete with what Mitsubishi is offering a few years from now. Similarly, our E-195 is comparable to the [Bombardier] C-Series 100.

"We have products today that are very good already, and we will keep trying to improve them in the coming years."

Going forward, Embraer is studying several aircraft concepts that it could develop in the future. This includes a stretched version of the E-195, which has been dubbed the E-195X, and turboprop aircraft.

"There is room for a small stretch of the E-195, given that we already have a very spacious cabin. While the turboprop market is not that big, there seems to be some growing interest in aircraft with a shorter range. But the reality is that we have not made a decision on any of this, and cannot be more specific about our plans," says Kern.

"We are developing a wide portfolio of new technologies and talking to engine makers, for example, about the options. A decision should be made in 12-18 months."

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news