Expected changes to AMR Corp.’s scope clause provision with its American Airlines pilots should result in large orders from U.S. carriers, says Paulo Caesar Silva, Embraer’s president for Commercial Aviation.

There is “huge opportunity that we see now in the U.S. market,” Silva says, adding, “We estimate that in the next few years there will be 400-500 aircraft that will have to be acquired by these major airlines in the United States.”

American will place “a huge order” in the next year, Silva says, noting “this will be the driver” for others, including Delta Air Lines—which is ridding its regional feed of many 50-seat jets—to seek more regional jets in the 70-plus size range, which includes Embraer’s E-175 airframe.

Silva also expects United Airlines will seek greater scope clause relief from its pilots groups.

Embraer is currently negotiating with AMR about the return of ERJ regional jets from its American Eagle Airlines division. AMR has said it wants to relax its strict scope clause, which currently limits its feed to 50-seat jets, to 88-seat aircraft.

Growth in the U.S. could be critical for Embraer as other markets are softening with declines in gross domestic product growth. Embraer’s outlook sees 4,125 90- to 120-seat regional jets sold through 2030, most of them expected in the last decade, while the forecast for the 61- to 90-seat segment is for 2,670 aircraft. The 30- to 60-seat market will be relatively quiet, with only 15 aircraft to be sold in the next decade and 430 through 2030.

Deliveries to North America will dominate, with around one-third of the market or 2,350 units. Europe will be next, followed by China and Latin America, predicts Embraer.

Embraer also is close to finalizing an upgrade package for its E-Jet family to improve fuel burn and maintenance cycles. A major aerodynamic clean-up program now under way is expected to trim 5% of fuel burn on the E-175 variant and 3% on the E-190, and a drag reduction effort still in development could include a modified winglet design, says Silva.

The first elements of the package, offering about 1% better fuel burn, are planned for next year, along with enhanced inspection intervals. A-checks will be extended to 750 hours from 600 hours and C-checks to 7,500 flight hours from 6,000 flight hours. In addition, Embraer is working on enhanced structural and prognostic capabilities to manage engine health.

Also planned for current-generation regional jets are new avionics and a new interior, but those efforts are still being determined.

One of the first enhancements planned for the E-Jets is Controller Pilot Data Link Communication to improve flight operations, a feature that is expected to be ready this year.

Silva says many of the design elements for the second-generation E-Jets, planned for the end of the decade, remain under development, with the engine decision due by year-end. The airframer is still unclear if it will be able to use one wing for all re-engined E-175s, E-190s and E-195s, although that decision will depend partly on the engine choice.

The new aircraft also will feature further maintenance enhancements and Embraer is working with suppliers to provide a more comprehensive maintenance package.

Separately, Silva says Embraer continues to evaluate the turboprop market, but currently sees no reasonable point of entry.