MIAMI — Luís Carlos Affonso is the senior vice president, operations and COO of commercial aviation for Embraer. The Brazilian aircraft manufacturer launched the next generation E2 family of jets — the E175-E2, E190-E2, and E195-E2 — at the 2013 Paris Air Show. In the latest of our special series of C-Suite interviews. Affonso discussed the decision to improve on the existing E Jet family, target customers for the E2 and why it’s the best option for airlines in the 70- to 130-seat segment.
Airways: When Embraer decided to launch the E2 jet family, why did you feel it was the best time to do it?
Luís Carlos Affonso: Go back in time to 2010. At that time, we were considering the possibilities [for jets]. It was public, but we were not in a hurry, because we wanted to gather as much information as possible and consider our options.
We were considering two options: either launch a new and bigger aircraft or launch a second generation of E Jets. It was also driven by a big event in the market — the launch of more efficient engines by the major engine manufacturers. So we saw there was going to be an important efficiency gain. So we weighed our options and our decision was to launch the second generation of E Jets.
Embraer we has 60 percent of the delivered market share in the 70- to 130-seat segment and 51 percent of market share in orders. If we try and compete in another segment and don’t adopt more efficient engines in the segment where we are leaders, we risk losing our leadership position. The timing [to launch] was good because the engine options were becoming more mature and the benefits were more clear.
You haven’t used a Pratt & Whitney commercial engine since the Brasilia turboprop. Why did you make this engine choice for the E2 jet family?
We have had a long-standing relationship with Pratt & Whitney since the Bandeirante and the Brasilia. We’re currently using Pratt engines on the Super Tucano and the Phenom 100 and 300. We also have the same relationships with General Electric and Rolls-Royce.
The decision was about the available engine and the total package that we found would be most suitable for us and our airline customers. We also noted the efficiency and advanced design of the engine, so it was a good risk. And Pratt & Whitney has good customer support, so it was this overall picture that made us decide on their geared turbofan engine. But we did also consider GE and Rolls-Royce, who were also offering new generation engines that were fuel efficient too.
With deliveries set between 2018 and 2020, who are your target customers for this jet family and in what parts of the world?
I believe that one big achievement we’ve gotten with the current E Jet family is the flexibility in terms of application and geographical regions. Today, E Jets fly everywhere in the world under different business models, from regionals to low-cost carriers to trunk and major airlines. This is key to its success. It’s efficient and reliable and has a cabin that is as good or even better than a narrowbody because there’s no middle seat. Airlines can blend the E Jet into their fleet and offer the same level of service to passengers. The E2 jet family will leverage this and be more successful in the marketplace. We’re designing aircraft that are more efficient than the current E Jet family, using lessons learned.
E Jets are in 65 airlines in 45 countries on all continents. We have delivered 1100 aircraft and sold more than 1400. They will remain in production until 2020 and will further enhance the marketplace that the E2 will build off of.
At what stage are you with the design and production of the E Jet family?
The three models are being developed simultaneously. We’ve started with the 190, which has the exact same fuselage size and number of seats, but has new wings, engines, landing gear and empange. Our second-generation jet is much more than just re-engining. We’ve taken a different path than other narrowbody manufacturers.
We decided to make a big investment in more efficient systems. As a result, the E2 jets will be as efficient as aircraft that started from a clean sheet of paper. We did not lose the opportunity to lower costs and make our aircraft more efficient. The 190-E2 is a considerably new aircraft.
We are at the phase where we have released four thousand drawings and have machined the first parts in Portugal. Our assembly jigs are being prepared and will be sent to Brazil. The first flight is scheduled for the second half of 2016. Next year, we will see many parts of the airplane being assembled. Also next year, the rigs and the Iron Bird will begin operations and testing.
The other members of the E2 Jet family will flow one year behind the 190. The 195-E2 is a similar aircraft to the 190-E2, but with a fuselage stretch. The last member of the family is the 175-E2, which is a bigger development effort. The 175-E2 will have a smaller wing and engine than the 190 and 195.
What do you feel the market for larger regional jets will look like by 2020?
We believe it’s a very healthy market. The 195-E2 will have a cost per seat that will be very competitive. The 195-E2 on a 600 nm trip will have a 24 percent lower costs than the current 195, so that’s a big achievement. That will open up an even a bigger market. Because they can be used in the route structure of airline and be deployed in parallel with narrowbodies, we see that the opportunities are even bigger for the 190-E2 and 195-E2. In our marketing pitch, we like to say there is a huge quantity of flights that depart with less than 120 passengers onboard. That’s a big percentage. In that situation, the best aircraft you can get is an E2 Jet. Airlines can get the highest load factor with the highest profitability.
You can fill the seats with larger aircraft, but at what price? With our cost per seat, the 190-E2 and195-E2 will be winners and represent best solution for airlines in terms of profitability. In medium- and low-density routes, E Jets are the best solution you can get.