After a couple of decades of quietly making its mark in regional aviation, Embraer may be ready to give both Boeing and Airbus a run for their money.
If you get the sense over the next few years that you’re seeing some new aircraft silhouettes around your airports, jet airliners almost the size and roughly the shape of the familiar Boeing 737, you won’t be wrong.
The new jets will be from neither Boeing nor France’s Airbus, but a Brazilian aircraft builder, Embraer.
Never heard of them? Don’t worry, you will.
You’ll also be flying them.
Actually, if you’ve ever caught any commuter flights from small regional airports around the United States, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve flown them already.
Embraer’s ERJ twin-jets have been the backbone of regional air services in this country (and around the world) for nearly 20 years.
Now, it looks as if the Brazilians are ready to start running with the big dogs, Boeing and Airbus. And Exhibit A is preparing for takeoff in the San Diego suburb of Carlsbad.
A new carrier, California Pacific Airlines, is preparing to start operations from Carlsbad’s McClellan-Palomar Airport, with flights to Oakland, San Jose and Sacramento, as well as Las Vegas, Phoenix and Cabo San Lucas, at the tip of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula.
According to published media reports, they plan eventually to extend their reach further into Mexico, with flights to Puerto Vallarta and Mexico City.
Their choice of aircraft — E-170 twin-jets from Embraer.
(NOTE: The airline plans to offer 2 x 2 seating throughout the entire aircraft. No middle seat, anywhere. They also plan to assign seats. Both these factors suggest that their fares won’t be in the bargain range, but travelers may decide that the added comfort and convenience are worth it. We’ll see.)
Quite a few airlines already are flying the E-170 — among them, Delta and United in this country, as well airlines in Europe, Asia and Africa.
It’s not hard to see where the Brazilians are going with this.
As upstart airlines like California Pacific start to catch on, and established airlines look to diversify their fleets, it’s easy to envision Embraer stretching out their E-170 to accommodate more passengers per flight.
Once that happens, they’ll be directly challenging Boeing’s venerable 737 and Airbus’ A321 series with newer airplanes and newer technology.
None of this means that Boeing or Airbus are going away anytime soon. But it does mean they no longer have the business all to themselves. In the high-stakes game of aircraft building, a new player is taking a seat at the table.
If this keeps up — and there’s no reason at this point to think that it won’t — American travelers soon may have to stop thinking of Brazil as a “developing country.”
Edited by P.A.Rice
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