February 11, 2013
Credit: Credit: Embraer
Guy Norris Los Angeles
As Embraer finalizes plans for its second-generation E-Jet family, the Brazilian manufacturer knows that laying out a solid, sustainable upgrade path for the current generation is as equally important as launching its successor.
It is a familiar scenario, mostly recently adopted by Airbus and Boeing as they prepare for the A320NEO and 737 MAX, respectively. However, despite striking similarities between Embraer's bridging strategy to the next E-Jet family and those higher up the food chain, there are some key differences. Unlike the mainline airliners which are focused on a “minimum change” update based largely on new engines, the E-Jet series requires more substantial upgrades to bolster its competitiveness in the increasingly contested regional and 100-seat market.
Since the first E-Jet entered service in 2004, all-new clean sheet designs such as the Mitsubishi Regional Jet and Sukhoi Superjet have emerged. Despite electing not to compete directly with Bombardier's higher-capacity CSeries, Embraer does expect to continue to face new developments and stiff competition from its fierce RJ rival in the traditional regional marketplace.
The second-generation will therefore include not only Pratt & Whitney PW1700/1900G geared turbofans, announced early in January, but an all-new wing as well as substantial changes in systems and avionics. As a result, despite being widely billed as a relatively modest incremental development, the work statement for the new E-Jet is increasingly more like that of the yet-to-be-launched Boeing 777X than either the A320NEO or 737 MAX.
Embraer has selected Honeywell's Primus 2 integrated avionics system for the second generation. A raft of other key equipment selections will follow over the next three months as part of a development plan that calls for first flight in 2016. “We're talking about the main systems of the aircraft, the APU [auxiliary power unit], electrical system, air management, landing gear, brakes, flight controls and so on,” says Luis Carlos Affonso, head of new programs at Embraer.
Honeywell, which beat out Garmin and Rockwell Collins, provides the avionics suite for the current E-Jet family. Transition training for pilots onto the new flightdeck will therefore take “less than four hours,” Affonso says.
The system “Began life with five 'portrait' displays, and our improvement was to go to four larger 'landscape' displays which provide more display area,” says Mike Rowley, Honeywell worldwide sales vice president. The larger 13 X 10-in. displays will have an advanced graphics capability and support potential upgrades such as synthetic vision, as well as chart and map functions. Like the existing system which interfaces directly with Rockwell Collins's head-up-displays in the E-Jet, the Primus 2 will also support an HUD. A request for proposals for a HUD for the second generation will be issued soon, adds Affonso.