Embraer published a concept picture of their – as yet unnamed – future turboprop concept, that the company hopes will secure its future. The coronavirus eliminated any thoughts of a deal with Boeing, so the company sets out its new strategy. And to some, it looks like it is returning to what it knows best.
The machine that put Embraer on the map as a world-known manufacturer of aircraft, was the EMB-120 Brasilia. It was a low-wing, twin-engined turboprop, and could carry 30 passengers. It was an immediate success as a small regional and commuter airplane. The company already had an early success in the Tucano family of military trainers. But the Brasilia cemented its position, and was much more visible to the foreign public.
Earlier in the year Embraer announced their turboprop plans for the first time. The company believes there is room in the market for an efficient aircraft using the same recipe as before… almost. The new turboprop will be much bigger. It will actually have the same passenger capacity as the smaller of the company’s E-jets, the E-175. Embraer thinks that its new turboprop will find its niche in short, commuter routes, where the rival jets’ extra speed isn’t as valued.
Embraer’s Turboprop Strategy
In a recent interview, Embraer’s VP of Marketing for Commercial Aviation Rodrigo Silva e Souza, gave more details. He explained that new aircraft will almost certainly have conventional propulsion. It will be a 70+ passenger design because the company feels that emerging propulsion technologies will first apply to aircraft with up to 50 seats.
It’s also worth pointing out that 76 seats is a practical limit between categories of regional airliners in the United States. It is safe to say that Embraer will have done its homework, and produce a design that will suit its US customer airlines.
The teaser photo reveals an aircraft with around 70 seats, based on the number of windows. It has the same low-wing, twin-turboprop design as the Embraer-120. The engine mount and cowl doesn’t offer any unusual clues. No exhausts are visible, but they weren’t prominent in the Brasilia, either. The cabin windows do not stop short of the tail, to suggest a hydrogen tank like we saw in Airbus’ concept.
Embraer wishes to develop its future turboprop with a partner company, as a cooperative project. It currently projects entry to service at 2027. This places the project after the worst estimates for a pandemic recovery. However the airliner still centres on low running costs. And of course airlines would need to commit financially to the project well in advance.
The above suggests that Embraer expects airlines to stay cautious in the medium to longer term. So, it will be interesting to see how regional airlines and other partners will respond.
Brasilia photo by Alf van Beem