Embraer appears open to the possibility of continuing production of its current-generation E175 regional jet for several years after the arrival of its re-engined replacement from 2020.
The success of the heavier re-engined E2 model in the lucrative US market is dependent on the positive renegotiation of a pilot-contract scope clause that limits the maximum take-off weight of regional aircraft to 39,010kg (86,000lb). The current-generation aircraft is below that threshold, but the E2 weighs in at 44,650kg.
"If there is no change, then of course we will continue to manufacture the E1. But it is difficult to say for how many more years – it could be two, it could be four, five... It depends on the scope clause," says Paulo Cesar de Souza e Silva, chief executive of Embraer's commercial aviation division.
So far, flightcrew unions – notably the Allied Pilots Association, which represents staff at American Airlines – have remained implacably opposed to any relaxation of the scope clause.
US carriers SkyWest Airlines and Trans States Holdings have firm orders for a combined 150 E175-E2s.
However, Silva – speaking at a media event at Embraer's facility in Evora, Portugal, on 22 May – played down the possibility of the E170 continuing in production post-2018.
The smallest member of the E-Jet family is not part of the E2 programme under which the E175, E190 and E195 all receive new wings and engines with the latter aircraft also being stretched by around 3m (10ft).
Silva says Embraer is dropping the 70-80-seat E170 as "we don't believe the market will require this size of aircraft any more", pointing out that the backlog for the variant has shrunk to just five aircraft.
However, Silva does equivocate slightly. "We don't intend to keep producing the E170 unless there's a market for that aircraft for any reason, but it's unlikely that would happen," he says.
Meanwhile, with a pair of orders newly confirmed – Azul taking 30 E195 E2s, and Tianjin Airlines a pair of E190 E2s – firm backlog for the next-generation aircraft family now stands at 242. This figure is just one aircraft short of Bombardier's CSeries total, but has been accumulated in a little under two years since the range was launched at the 2013 Paris air show, says Silva.
"Interest from the market has been quite good. We are very satisfied in this regard," he adds. "We have 242 orders so far; plus options and other commitments, it is almost 550. We have some strong names there, so this is good."
Assembly of the initial E190-E2 flight-test prototype is under way, and the first set of wing-skins produced at Evora have now been shipped to Embraer's Sao Jose dos Campos production line. Assembly is due to be completed by September or October, says Silva, ahead of a maiden sortie in the second half of 2016 and service entry in 2018.
Certification will be achieved using four flight-test articles for the E190-E2, one E195-E2 – with entry into service set for 2019 – and three E175-E2s.
The re-engined twinjets gain Pratt & Whitney geared turbofans in place of the General Electric CF34s on current-generation models.