January 14, 2013
Credit: Credit: Embraer
Guy Norris Los Angeles
Embraer has made a habit of surprising the industry over the past two decades with the scope and ambition of its commercial airliner development strategy. Now, as it prepares to launch its second-generation “E-Jet” family, the Brazilian manufacturer is continuing that tradition with the unexpected selection of Pratt & Whitney as engine provider.
Having partnered with Rolls-Royce for its ERJ regional jet series, and moved to General Electric for its larger E-170 and E-190 airliner families, Embraer was widely expected to stick with GE for its next-generation family. The selection of Pratt's PW1000G geared turbofan therefore not only marks a decisive milestone for Embraer's second-generation family plan, but poses questions over how quickly Pratt's aggressive market penetration strategy will begin to impact the long-term dominance of GE's smaller commercial engine family.
Embraer plans to formally launch the second-generation E-Jet family later this year, says the company's Commercial Aviation Market President Paulo Cesar Silva. Provisionally outlined for 78-122 seats, the aircraft will be reconfigured with an all-new wing, a full fly-by-wire flight-control system and extended main landing gear to provide more clearance for the higher-bypass engines. Major decisions on other system upgrades and changes are expected later this year, says Silva.
The aircraft will succeed the current GE CF34-powered E-170/-175 and E-190/-195 versions from 2018 onward, though decisions on which second-generation variant is introduced first, and how long production of all the models will overlap are still to be determined, adds Claudio Camelier, Commercial Aviation market intelligence vice president. “The E-Jet family continues to do well, and there will be some overlapping going forward. We also continue to improve the current E-Jets and a big development program is ongoing.”
Embraer has taken orders for approximately 1,100 E-Jets, of which more than 900 have been delivered. However with the rise of Bombardier's CSeries, the backlog shrinking, and having already claimed 43% of the 60-120-seat market segment, Embraer says the time is ripe to move ahead on the second-generation plan. “We have decided to reinforce our position and take the necessary steps to maintain or even grab more market share in this segment,” says Silva.
For now, however, Embraer's engine decision remains the key talking point as it marks both a significant victory for Pratt's continuing campaign to penetrate the single-aisle market as well as a major blow for GE, which was believed to be in pole position with a mix of the next-generation NG34 and, possibly, a de-rated CFM Leap. The NG34 is based on the common “eCore” design used in the CFM Leap engine and is earmarked as a successor to the CF34. Rolls-Royce, which hoped to build on its relationship established with Embraer on the earlier AE3007-powered ERJ 145 family, had also been in the competition with a new two-shaft engine design.
Two new versions of the PW1000 family will be developed for the Embraer program, unofficially dubbed the “G2.” Covering a range of 15,000-22,000 lb. thrust, they comprise the PW1700G and PW1900G, the former aimed at the second-generation E-170/-175 and the latter the new variant of the larger E-190/-195. Silva says the engine decision was made on the basis of technical and commercial considerations. “We do appreciate the relationship with GE, but the proposition that Pratt is offering seems to us [to bring] more value to our customers based on fuel burn and maintenance costs. So we believe it is the best option.”