LISBON — As the 50-seat regional jet industry continues evolving to newer 76-seat aircraft, São Paulo, Brazil-based Embraer has challenged Bombardier CRJ and CSeries family aircraft, as well as the Airbus A318/A319 and Boeing 737-700, with the advent of the second generation of its EJets program, dubbed the E2.

Airways was invited to visit Lisbon, Portugal, where Luis Carlos Alfonso, Chief Operating Officer of Embraer Commercial Aviation hosted a presentation to discuss the regional jet manufacturer’s “clean sheet design” initiative, first begun in 2011, and based on the successful platform of the EJets First Generation (E1).

The E2 family aircraft is a major upgrade to the original E-Jet series launched over a decade ago. The new family will comprise the E175-E2, the smallest member of the family, the E190-E2, and the stretched E195-E2. The program coincides with a €93.6 million (US$104 million) investment to create Embraer’s Evora, Portugal Composites and Engineering Center, one of two Centers of Excellence of the airframer. There, wings and horizontal stabilizers are manufactured and shipped to São José dos Campos in Brazil for final assembly.

Embraer E-Jets E2 Components Sourcing. (Credits: Embraer)
Embraer E-Jets E2 Components Sourcing. (Credits: Embraer)

Launched in 2013 during the 50th Paris Air Show, the E2 includes a new, modern wing, improved aerodynamics and systems. It also incorporates a new power plant. Embraer selected the Pratt & Whitney Geared Turbo Fan (GTF) PW1000G, in lieu of the General Electric CF34 used on the current aircraft in production. Alfonso added that while the Pratt & Whitney engine design is new, by the time the jets enter service all initial teething issues will have been thoroughly vetted.

All three aircraft have received a reduction in the size of the horizontal tail plane, a taller landing gear design, and a Fourth Generation fly-by-wire three-axis closed loop system for improved stability, increased control and safety to deliver full envelope protection in all phases of flight.

While the aircraft will retain the same fuselage cross section and the 2+2 standard seating arrangement of the current production models, Embraer offers improvements in the passenger cabin, including larger overhead bins. The manufacturer has opted to keep the same seating, with 97 on a two-class cabin configuration or 106 in a single-class layout in the case of the E190-E2.

2+2 Coach Cabin Layout. Notice the oversized overhead compartments. (Credits: Embraer, animation by Airways)
2+2 Coach Cabin Layout. Notice the oversized overhead compartments. (Credits: Embraer, animation by Airways)

Luis Carlos Alfonso told Airways that these improvements will offer “fuel savings of 26% and a 16% drag reduction with improved aerodynamics.”

Another distinct advantage is that pilots who are currently flying Embraer’s current generation of EJets, will be able to transition to the E2 over a three-day training and certification period.

According to Embraer, the EJets-E2 family aircraft offer a competitive portfolio of aircraft that beat its direct competitors. For example, in the case of the E175-E2, Alfonso explains that the aircraft is an excellent turboprop replacement, given its appealing economics, along with the E190-E2. As a case in point, the E195 offers a 10% percent savings over the Bombardier CS100, while boasting a better “hot and high” performance over its competitors.

Alfonso, an engineer and pilot, projects that the market outlook from 2016-2035 is 6,400 aircraft in the 70-130 seat jet segment, forecasting North America, Europe and Asia Pacific markets as those with the strongest demand.

Since its launch, the E2 has obtained 640 commitments, 267 firm orders and 373 options and purchase rights from both airline customers and leasing companies. According to Embraer, the E-Jets are being operated by about 70 customers in 50 countries. With over 50% market share, they are the global leader in the segment of up to 130 seat aircraft.

“The bigger the plane, the higher cost for fuel per trip. If you can’t fill a 200 seat aircraft, and you don’t want to discount fares to shrink yields, you’re better off with a smaller plane”, says Alfonso.

Citing confidence in the E2 program, Alfonso points to Embraer’s total investment in the program at $1.7 billion. He projects that the demand for narrow bodies will increase 33% in average, with an increase of 46% in the 70-130 seat market.

Embraer’s Evora Composites and Engineering Center—roughly an hour’s drive from Lisbon, employs 415 skilled workers, 120 interns and 15 engineers with a focus on large, complex part wing spars, outer skins, outboard flaps and horizontal stabilizers.

Thanks to an unique partnership with Lisbon’s City and Region People Development program, this Center of Excellence has placed Evora firmly on the Aerospace map, combining advanced technologies and manufacturing processes in both metallic and composite airframe construction, and providing a relevant contribution to the development of the Portuguese aerospace industry.