Quietly – Or Not – Embraer Has Become A 'Player'

By James R. Asker asker@aviationweek.com
Source: AWIN First

For Embraer, there are more products in the pipeline. The Legacy 500 made its first flight last November. To help generate buzz for the world’s first fly-by-wire midsize bizjet, Embraer gave it a splashy, digital-inspired paint scheme. It looks like it has a mud-splattered back end to detractors.

“People either love it or hate it,” Edwards admits. But he is obviously pleased with the attention in the bizav community – whether it’s notice or notoriety.

The Legacy 450, also fly-by-wire, is following closely behind the 500, with entry into service slated for 2015 – the point at which Embraer wanted to be a major player. Edwards calls the new entrant a “mid-light,” insisting it is incorrect to view the 7-9-passenger, 2,300-nm-range (with two pilots and four passengers) twinjet as either light or mid-size.

As Embraer’s product catalog and order book have grown, so has the company’s diversity. Invariably described as a Brazilian company, Embraer has become in reality a global aerospace company.

The company has pilot training and service centers around the world, as any serious airframer does. But it is also building bizjet sections and assembling aircraft far from its home base in San Jose dos Campos.

Wings are being built in Embraer’s Evora, Portugal plant. The first Legacy 650 assembly at its Harbin, China, facility began early this year, and delivery is expected in the fourth quarter.

And here in Melbourne, Phenom 100s and 300s began being assembled last year in a plant a stone’s throw from the customer center. (Customers can even get a “Made in U.S.A.” sticker for the fuselage, if they wish.) Across the airport, an embryonic engineering group has begun working until a new center for the American techies can be built.

In all, Embraer has leases or options for land here roughly equal to the company’s footprint in San Jose dos Campos. Florida officials seem delighted to be hosting Embraer, which brings in jobs with paychecks averaging $50,000 annually.

But in the end, it’s not local officials or even employees who have to be pleased. It’s customers. So Edwards is happy that Embraer showed strong improvement in two independent surveys of customer satisfaction last year. And he cautions against bizjet builders who give too much weight to things like options to buy aircraft.

“They’ll talk about backlog, but not sales,” Edwards says of some of his competitors. “But they’re not sold until they’re delivered and you have a check.”