October 29, 2012
Credit: Credit: Dassault Falcon Jet
When questioned as to why he robbed banks, Willie Sutton famously replied, “Because that's where the money is.” Well, international business jet makers are continuing to set up manufacturing, assembly and completions shops in the U.S. for much the same reason: North America has been, is, and is forecast to remain the No. 1 consumer of their products for the foreseeable future.
Embraer is the latest to join the USA-Made club. In 2011, the Brazilian manufacturer opened a $52 million Phenom assembly, completion and painting facility and business jet customer center at Melbourne (Fla.) International Airport, and delivered the facility's first Phenom 100 that December. It will begin delivering Phenom 300s in 2013 and plans to increase production to eight aircraft per month. The main parts are shipped from Brazil to Florida by boat.
The company says the all-new Melbourne site brings assembly and delivery closer to its U.S. customers—rather than having them travel to Brazil to claim their aircraft and fly it home, hopscotching the length of South and Central America or the Caribbean. Also, the new location facilitates interaction with its suppliers, an important factor since about 75% of the Phenom's content comes from North America. Moreover, the production facility is just a 3-hr. drive up Interstate Highway 95 from Embraer's North American headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Embraer has more than 200 workers on site at Melbourne and is still hiring. In March, the company announced plans to develop the Embraer Engineering and Technology Center at the airport.
The center, providing research and development across Embraer's commercial, business and military programs, will eventually bring an additional 200 workers to the Melbourne location during the next five years. That unit is already operating in temporary quarters but Embraer anticipates acquiring additional land at the airport and opening a new R&D facility there in late 2014.
While the Melbourne assembly facility is dedicated to Phenoms only, it holds rights to 150 acres of airport land that seem ideally suited for eventual expansion into Legacy assembly as well.
Gary Spulak, president of Embraer Aircraft Holdings, said of his company, “Where we go, we grow” and for the Melbourne site, “We're still thinking big.” That seems to be a shared attitude among club members.
Honda Aircraft's roots in Greensboro, N.C., trace to 2000 when the Japanese manufacturer established a research facility at Piedmont Triad International Airport (GSO) for the purpose of researching, fabricating and flight-testing a light jet of its own design.