Citing current market conditions for commercial aviation resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, Embraer has rescheduled the start of operations of its new E175-E2 jetliner until 2023. The company is continuing development work on the aircraft, though now on this revised timeline. Service entry of the E175-E2 had previously been scheduled to occur in the late 2021 to early 2022 timeframe.
The E175-E2 is part of Embraer’s second-generation E-Jets series called the E2 family, which consists of re-engined and rewinged versions of the original Embraer 175, 190, and 195 aircraft. The E175-E2 can accommodate 80-90 passengers, and it is powered by Pratt & Whitney PW1700G geared turbofan engines.
No firm orders for the E175-E2 were included in Embraer’s official backlog as of the end of June 2020. However, the company does have a conditional commitment for 100 E175-E2s from the U.S. regional airline company SkyWest. Uncertainty exists, though, as to whether SkyWest will be able to operate the E175-E2. At the present time, the E175-E2 cannot be operated by regional airlines flying under contract to the three major U.S. airlines.
Scope clauses in pilot contracts at the U.S. majors prohibit their regional partners from operating any aircraft that has a maximum takeoff weight exceeding 86,000 pounds or (with one minor exception) that seats more than 76 passengers. While the E175-E2 can be configured with 76 seats, it has a maximum takeoff weight of 98,326 pounds, placing it beyond current scope restrictions.
Scope clauses can, and historically have been, liberalized as the pilot contracts become amendable. In the meantime, a market does exist for regional jetliners that are too large or heavy to be scope-compliant. Such aircraft can be acquired by regional airlines unencumbered by strict scope clauses as well as by low-fare carriers, leasing outfits, and major airlines. Much of this market is located outside the U.S., particularly in regions such as Europe or the Asia/Pacific area.
Meanwhile, the original Embraer 175, which is compliant with current U.S. scope clauses, continues in production. As of June 2020, Embraer had a commercial aviation backlog of 159 firm orders for the 159 175. Customers also held 291 options for the aircraft.
The 175 will likely continue in production for many years to come. Embraer picked up 44 net orders for the 175 in 2019 and no less than 168 in 2018. Nearly all of these orders were from U.S. carriers.
Even after the E175-E2 enters service, Embraer may continue to market and produce the original 175 for as long as demand for it continues. The company’s hybrid assembly line in São José dos Campos can turn out both models simultaneously. Indeed, demand for the 175 from U.S. carriers can be expected to continue for as long as the current scope limits on aircraft weight remain in place.
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