Congo Airways of Kinshasa in the DRC has ordered two Embraer E-175 jets to replace its two Dash 9 Q400s. It’s a tiny order for Embraer but a big commitment for Congo Airways—together with the rights for an additional two-the order amounts to $194 million-and replaces half Congo’s fleet. The carrier also operates two A320s, serving ten domestic destinations and two international routes; Douala in Cameroon and Johannesburg in South Africa.
A former Belgian colony, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is roughly two-thirds of the size of western Europe and while it has enormous mineral wealth, its recent history is one of corruption and civil war, particularly in the east, bordering Uganda and Rwanda.
It’s easy to forget that that the Brazilian firm Embraer is the third-largest commercial manufacturer in the world, albeit far smaller than Boeing or Airbus. Its E-jets are all based on the original E-170 which went into service in 2002. The E-175 was a slightly stretched variant while the newer E190/195 are larger still. The E-175 can carry 76 passengers in dual class over a distance of 2200 nm at a maximum cruise of Mach 0.82. The Embraer competes against the 737-600, A318 and represents an upgrade for most turboprops; that’s no doubt part of Embraer’s marketing approach. The E-jets are popular in the US on the smaller routes, with over 450 in service.
The Embraer E2 ‘Profit Hunter’ © Embraer
Embraer is busy introducing the E2 evolution jet; Binter & Helvetic have taken delivery of their E195-E2 and E190-E2 respectively. The E2 have improved wings, fly-by-wire controls and lower maintenance costs. So why didn’t Congo order the E2? Probably much to do with the costs, and the expected delivery of the E-175 E2 is 2021—Congo receives its plain vanilla E-175 in Q4 2020. In terms of customer satisfaction if you’re used to flying in a Q400, the speed and comfort of an E-175 is a massive improvement regardless.