Embraer To Pause E175-E2 Program For Three Years

Embraer's E175-E2 in initial flight testing.
Credit: Embraer

Embraer has decided to pause flight testing and certification of the Embraer 175-E2 for three years in a move that raises further doubts about the future viability of the program.

The manufacturer said in a regulatory filing that “as in previous years, the re-programming of activities is associated with the ongoing U.S. mainline scope clause discussions with the pilot unions regarding the maximum take-off weight (MTOW) limitation for aircraft with up to 76 seats, together with current global market conditions for commercial aviation and the continuing interest in the current E175 jet in the U.S. market.” 

Embraer “expects to resume the program development activities following the aforementioned period, which will result in a re-programming of the aircraft entry-into-service between 2027 and 2028.”

Embraer had launched the E175-E2 assuming that scope clauses, which limit the use of large regional aircraft in the U.S., would change in time for the arrival of the aircraft as airlines would find the proposition to fly the latest version of the E175 so economically attractive that they would be willing to negotiate new agreements with pilot unions. 

However, unions have not indicated any willingness to relax scope clauses, nor has the item been as high on airlines’ agendas as Embraer had hoped. Surprisingly for Embraer, U.S. carriers have simply continued to order the E175-E1 in large quantities.

Typically, the pilots of regional airlines operating on behalf of U.S. major carriers cannot fly aircraft that have more than 76 seats or weigh more than 86,000 lb. The 175-E2 has space for up to 90 passengers in a single-class layout or 80 in three classes. Crucially, its maximum take-off weight (MTOW) is 98,120 lb.—around 10% higher than scope clauses permit. Making it scope-compliant would require a massive weight-saving target that insiders say would be unlikely to be achievable. They add that further improvements to the 175-E1 are now being considered instead.

Embraer initially had a firm order from Skywest for 100 175-E2s that it had to remove from its backlog in 2018 as no scope clause movement was in sight. Following the cancellation there were no orders left. The E175-E2 nonetheless made its first flight on Dec. 12, 2019. Since then it has been in a slow-moving flight-test campaign. Embraer already delayed entry-into-service for the aircraft once—from 2021 to 2024—given the lack of market interest and the impact of the pandemic on airlines.

Embraer’s backlog at the end of September 2021 consisted of five E190-E2s, 154 E195-E2s, three E190s and 151 E-175s. Since then, lessor Azorra has bought 20 E2s; which can either be 190s or 195s. The manufacturer is releasing updated information on orders and deliveries on March 9.

The E175-E2 was launched jointly with the two larger variants of the family, featuring a slight stretch over the original E175, in 2013. Since then, what was once a highly contested market between Embraer, Bombardier and Mitsubishi has turned into a monopoly for Embraer now that production of the Bombardier CRJ has ceased and Mitsubishi’s SpaceJet has been shelved indefinitely.

Whether or not the E175-E2 project will be resumed will continue to largely depend on scope relaxation in the U.S. Any order from an airline outside of North America would likely not be large enough to justify the investment needed to finish flight testing and certification. 

The E175-E2 news comes as Embraer continues talks with potential customers and industrial partners on launching a new large turboprop that would seat 70-90 passengers. Embraer has said in the past that the risk of the new turboprop cannibalizing the E175-E2 is low because, in spite of their similar size, the two aircraft address different segments, particularly when it comes to average stage lengths. Conversations on the turboprop are now focusing on engine selection and when a powerplant that guarantees a substantial fuel-burn advantage over in-service aircraft could be available.

Embraer plans to make a decision on a launch before the end of the year. Should it go ahead with the program, the aircraft would be targeted at an entry-into-service by around 2027.

Jens Flottau

Based in Frankfurt, Germany, Jens is executive editor and leads Aviation Week Network’s global team of journalists covering commercial aviation.