Embraer is considering REENTERING the turboprop market.
In the 1970s the Brazilian OEM brought to the American market its Bandeirante, an unpressurized aircraft certificated to carry 21 passengers (but usually operated with only 19 seats to avoid the requirement of a second flight attendant). 501 “Bandits” were sold much to the dismay of Fairchild Swearingen and its similarly sized Metroliner.
The American OEM argued that the Bandit was unfairly subsidized and brought a complaint before the US International Trade Commission (USITC). The complaint was dismissed. A lawyer for Embraer called Fairchild’s claim that Embraer was responsible for the loss of market share “an excess of zeal…. There can be no damage to Fairchild from an airplane of different specifications.” That characterization of the record was based on the testimony of former FAA Administrator Langhorne Bond. The difference according to Bond, the Metro was pressurized, and the Bandit was not. Pressurization adds to the cost of an airplane.
The president of Embraer at the time, Osires Silva, was quoted directly in the news article: “The regional air market is filled by foreign manufacturers because US companies did not have the vision to fill this gap.”
Its success with the EMB-110 and then the EMB-120 Brasilia, especially in the hot commuter airline expansion in the US, Embraer accelerated into a global company that today offers a range of regional jet airliners, executive jets, trainers/light attack aircraft, and military transports. It is now the world’s #3 airframe manufacturer in the world.
At the Air Finance Journal Dublin 2020 conference, Embraer Commercial Aviation Chief Executive John Slattery announced that his company in the advanced stages of studying the launch of a new turboprop aircraft to be developed through a venture it is planning with Boeing. The aircraft would be in the same size range or even larger than the 70-seat ATR-72, a Franco-Italian aircraft that currently dominates the market.
Reentry into the smaller capacity airliner market involves a substantial capital expenditure for research, development, marketing and manufacturing. Others commenting at the same conference provided a strong basis of this new design:
… Chorus Aviation Capital president Steven Ridolfi highlighted “real demand for leases in the regional aircraft space that is unfulfilled”. He says this was “what we saw in this marketplace that made us come in”…
Ridolfi describes the regional aircraft leasing market as a “niche” sector, but says it is a “pretty big niche” offering advantages as well as drawbacks. Some routes operated by regional airlines, for instance, are “essential services”, some are “protected by governments” and others act as feeder services – all of which are considered by Ridolfi to be positives.“ The future will be for those of us who can grow and meet the needs of regional airlines,” he says.
Another advantage of the turboprop is that it is “an easy asset to transition” to different operators, and this is “clearly something that’s useful for lessors” … He also cites its greater fuel efficiency versus jet aircraft.
According to Anne-Bart Tieleman, chief executive of regional aircraft lessor TrueNoord – which has 14 ATR aircraft – “people will always want turboprops”. He points to short runways and airports that cannot be served by larger jets
Those are the sorts of comments that bean counters love to hear as they develop a financial risk model for a clean sheet airplane. “The amount of balance sheet required for a new state-of-the-art commercial aircraft is of an order of magnitude that we simply don’t have the appetite for, outside of the joint-venture environment,” Slattery said, adding, “no JV, no TP”.
Embraer is also in “meaningful” discussions with engine makers General Electric, Rolls-Royce and Pratt & Whitney Canada about an engine for the new plane, Slattery said. Studies about the electric plane, with 50 passengers or less, perhaps are more esoteric than pending reality.
It will be interesting to see what results from this proposal!!!
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