New battle lines have quietly been drawn in the resurgent competition between Bombardier and Embraer ahead of an expected glut of regional jet orders.
Five years after Bombardier unveiled the CRJ NextGen series, Embraer now confirms it is preparing to roll out a similar aerodynamic makeover of the current E-Jet family. The mid-life upgrade of the E-Jet design had been expected, but its arrival was over-shadowed by Embraer's ongoing preparations to launch the development of a second generation E-Jet later this year.
Republic Airways will operate 47 of the modified aircraft
Several airlines, however, are already well-briefed on the makeover planned for the current E-Jet. A concept for an "Embraer 175+", featuring roughly a 5% fuel burn reduction, was first disclosed - but not publicly explained - in October, as part of an ultimately unsuccessful campaign by Embraer to win an order from Delta Air Lines. Instead, Delta selected the Bombardier CRJ900 for a 40-aircraft order that launched the long-awaited refleeting of the US regional jet fleet.
Embraer kept refining its E-Jet improvement programme despite the setback. The E-175+ nomenclature was dropped, perhaps to avoid creating confusion in the market with the second generation E-Jet programme. It is again simply called the E-Jet, with improvements.
Embraer declined requests to provide the details of those improvements until very recently, following a critical vote of confidence from a major customer.