By Jimmy Bhatia
THOUGH RIDING on the spectacular success of its single-aisle regional jets, where it became the world’s largest manufacturer of commercial jets with up to 130 seats, Embraer initially was a reluctant player to come into the business of manufacturing Business Jets. Its entry into the business jet arena was somewhat tentative akin to putting a toe to test the waters by introducing the Legacy Jet – an executive version of the Embraer ERJ 135 model with the updated Mark I cockpit of the Emb 145. Embraer did add a few extra features to take on the competition such extra fuel tanks for added range, winglets and other drag reduction devices. The aircraft was one of the first in the class to be certified to operate at 41,000 ft. Legacy 600 was launched in 2000 at the Farnborough Airshow boasting of a range of 5,650 km with 13 passengers and up to 6,390 km with 8 passengers. Even Embraer was somewhat surprised with the customer response the Legacy received. In the first seven years of its service, as many as 150 Legacy 600 had been sold in more than 20 countries, with the figure going past 200 soon after. India was one of the buyers when the Indian Air Force (IAF) in 2005 inducted four Legacy 600 executive jets into its Communication Squadron for VIP travel based at Palam, Delhi with one going to the air wing of the BSF (Border Security Force) in the MHA (Ministry of home Affairs).
Spurred by the success of its Legacy 600 Executive Jet, Embraer decided to plunge headlong into the global business jet market but what is really incredible is the fact that it has managed to leapfrog in such a short span of less than a decade to cover almost the entire range of business jets being produced globally. Broadest in the market, today Embraer’s business jet portfolio consists of the entry-level Phenom 100and the Phenom 300 light jet, the Legacy 450 mid-light and the Legacy 500 midsize, the super midsize Legacy 600 and large Legacy 650, and finally, the ultra-large Lineage 1000E. (See table for details)
How soon Embraer has captured the business jet market is evident from the fact that today its global fleet exceeds 975 aircraft which are in operation in more than 60 countries. Its global Customer Supportband Services network is equally impressive with 76 owned and authorised service centres, complemented by a 24X7 Contact Centre, at its HQ in Brazil.
Another incredible feat that Embraer has been able to accomplish is the ability to source out practically every major system and sub-system to the best in the global market and then ingeniously integrate all these into the core airframes designed and developed by them in-house. This has resulted not only in cost effective solutions but, has greatly cut down the timelines in which to bring a particular product, from its coneptualisation to ready to sell in the market.
Take the power plants for example; Embraer’s business jets are powered by Pratt &Whitney turbofans in the light category, Honeywell in the midsize, Rolls-Royce in the super mid and large size and General Electric in the ultra large size category. The aim has been to get the best and most fuel-efficient engines in the respective class of power plants. The same is the case when it comes to avionics. All models of Embraer business jets best in the class glass cockpit layouts and onboard avionics. Phenom 100 and 300 models have Prodigy Flight decks with Synthetic Vision System. All 450 and upwards models are endowed with full fly-by-wire technology, advanced navigation systems. The Legacy 650 for example features Honeywell Primus Elite avionics suite and so on. The cabin communication and IFE systems have also kept abreast with the latest technologies. The ultra-large Lineage 1000E features the fully digital, high definition, Honeywell Ovation Select entertainment and cabin management system, combined with an iPad. A fully integrated Media Centre conveniently concentrates multiple media devices and video inputs, including game consoles, and delivers high definition video and audio on a 5.1 surround system – a top-of-the-line system for exceptional passenger experience.
On the flight deck, Lineage flies with the latest electronic fly-by-wire flight control system, and offers the optional autoland, which conducts approach, touchdown, and a five-second rollout, when the autopilot is engaged. The Lineage 1000E is available with the optional Embraer Enhanced Vision System (E2VS), which combines Head Up Display (HUD) and an Enhanced Vision System.
Little wonder then, Embraer has made a great niche for itself in the global business jet market by capturing a large chunk of the business in the entire range of products. While, initially, its business jets were predominantly being sold in the American and European markets, it has also been quick to establish itself in the Asia-Pacific markets. More than 100 Embraer business jets are already operating in this sector and the numbers are bound to keep growing.
India is also emerging as a big market for the Embraer business jets. India’s mushrooming HNWIs (High Net-Worth Individuals) will soon realise the benefits that can accrue to their businesses by resorting to timesaving travel in the comfort of a business jet. There is a big potential market for the entry-level to small midsize business jets in India and Embraer could score big on this count with their Phenom 100 and 300 jets. The big corporate houses could also go for these options to optimise their travel schedules apart from acquiring the larger models for long range travel.
Other state agencies in India, especially the Indian Air Force (IAF) are likely to go in a big way to acquire/enhance their existing fleets. It is known that IAF is planning to augment its Legacy 600 strength in the VIP Communication Squadron to keep pace with the phasing out of its old Avro HS-748 aircraft. On the operational front, the IAF has already acquired three modified Emb 145 aircraft to be converted into AEW&C platforms with indigenous systems that are in advanced stages of flight trials. Once proven, the IAF would certainly like to increase their numbers to cater to its requirements of covering huge airspace in the country’s western and north-northeastern borders; not to speak of the potential that exists, for the eventual export of these platforms to friendly countries.