A program of improvements aimed at reducing fuel burn by as much as 5.5% in some E-Jet versions is being introduced by Embraer as part of plans to bolster the regional jet product line in the run-up to the introduction of the re-engined second generation in 2018.

The Brazilian manufacturer also has announced that Honeywell’s Primus 2 integrated avionics system will be used for the second generation and that other key equipment selections will follow in the next three months.

The selection of Honeywell, which beat competition from Garmin and Rockwell Collins, follows Embraer’s surprise decision earlier this year to pick Pratt & Whitney’s geared turbofan for the new aircraft over the incumbent General Electric.

Honeywell provides the avionics suite for the current E-Jet family and, as part of the newly detailed multi-phase upgrade effort, also will supply its Next Generation Flight Management System (NGFMS) from 2015.

The updated FMS, which also is used on the Boeing 747-8 and Gulfstream 650, will support optimized flight profiles, including a “cost index” to cut fuel burn, Honeywell’s “smart landing” system, which reduces runway excursions, and compliance to required navigation performance standards of 0.1 nm.

Embraer’s E-Jet upgrade plan includes a wide-ranging series of aerodynamic, structural and systems improvements, the bulk of which also will be available for retrofit on the current E-Jet portfolio. Embraer, which first revealed the initiative in late January when it announced Republic Airways’ firm order for 47 E-175s, says the changes are part of a continuous upgrade path it has been following since the first E-Jet models entered service in 2004.

Packages will be introduced through 2015, although “. . . there are other things that we are considering for 2016/2017,” says Embraer Commercial Aviation Market Intelligence VP Claudio Camelier.

The initial element is a fuel burn improvement package along with a series of maintenance updates, all of which are being introduced this year.

The first fuel burn package includes a series of aerodynamic “clean-up” features to reduce drag, along with optimization of the environmental control (ECS) and anti-ice systems, to reduce excessive use of engine bleed air. The aero-package includes fillers to close drag-causing gaps in the horizontal tail, a revised rain deflector over the cabin doors, improved ram air doors in the lower fuselage and low-drag wheel fairings.

This package, which builds on updates developed for the larger E-190/195 family, is already incorporated in new aircraft delivered from January 2013.

A second fuel burn reduction package, based on further aerodynamic clean-ups of the auxiliary power unit inlet and anti-collision beacon as well as an all-new wingtip, will begin flight tests in the second quarter. The new wingtip extends overall span by around 9 ft. to 94 ft. 2 in., and replaces the existing vertical winglet. The larger tip, which is angled with a dihedral of 45 deg., imposes added bending load to the wing and is therefore accompanied by local strengthening to the wing box, skins and stub wing where the unit attaches to the fuselage.

The added low-drag features will be incorporated from 2014 onward, as will the first new wingtips, which enter service that year on the E-175. The extended tip follows on the E-190 and E-170 in 2015 and in 2016 on the E-195.

“The design has been evaluated in the wind tunnel at transonic and subsonic conditions which validated computational fluid dynamics simulations. We’ve also evaluated all the low-speed characteristics, and the wind tunnel tests have given us a high degree of confidence that the flight tests will confirm these results,” says Camelier.

Combined, all the updates are expected to give a 5% fuel burn benefit to the E-170 based on a 600 nm flight, while the biggest beneficiary is expected to be the E-175, which could see fuel burn improve by as much as 5.5%. As the E-190 and E-195 already have some of the drag reduction features, these will see improvements of 3.5% and 4%, respectively.

The updates also include a series of systems and avionics upgrades to lower maintenance costs, improve reliability and optimize navigation performance. They include longer-life LED external lights, and a revised maintenance plan that extends the basic check interval from 6,000 flight hours to 7,500. The extension is “based on data from experience over about 10 years, and saves the equivalent of one basic check per aircraft over around that period” says Commercial Aviation Programs VP Leandro Laia.

To further reduce operating costs, Embraer’s upgrade plan also includes installation of a prognostic health management system to monitor equipment and anticipate failures or malfunctions. “The idea is to transform an unscheduled maintenance event into a planned maintenance event with less downtime and less interruption to the flight schedule,” says Camelier, who adds that the system will be available from December 2014.

The following year, Embraer also plans to introduce a scheduled structural health monitoring (SHM) system that involves the installation of fatigue and corrosion sensors in hard-to-access areas of the airframe around the aft doors. “To conduct a visual structural inspection you have to remove the galleys, lavatory, seats, liners and so on, but with the SHM you have electronic sensors that provide the data,” says Camelier. Embraer estimates the SHM will reduce the time for inspections by 128 worker hours.

Larger overhead bins in the cabin and a wireless inflight entertainment system also are due to be introduced from 2015.