Embraer revealed last week that it is studying on the long-rumored “E3 project,” a new turboprop. This aircraft had initially been in the planning process prior to the ill-fated Boeing acquisition of Embraer’s commercial business. Embraer foresees a market need for a more modern turboprop to provide a step-up in technology, comfort, and economics from the existing competition, the Dash-8 from DeHavilland Canada, and the ATR 42 and 72 from ATR, Avions de Transports Regionale.

The “E3” design concept will be about the same size as the E175 and E190, likely between 70 and 100 seats. The aircraft is expected to be a low wing design, and the Embraer turboprop will beat ATR on every metric: economics, speed, comfort, reliability. Against Q400 the economics are even better, of course. The current E175-E2 fuselage is a likely baseline for the new product, which instead of jet power will be powered by two very efficient latest generation turboprop engines, and provide a strong market advantage in comfort and product seamlessness for major airlines.

We expect that the wings of the new aircraft will be composite, while the fuselage will remain metal given the high utilization cycles of regional aircraft and the need for damage tolerance in ground handling. Engineering for the program could likely be completed quite rapidly, as the E2 program is essentially completed with only the E175-E2 awaiting introduction and US scope clause adjustments.

The company has the talent and need for a new product, and the turboprop market could provide the right opportunity in either the near term around 2025 or near 2030, depending on whether Embraer wants to utilize existing technology or wait for additional innovations that are currently on the drawing board. The studies currently underway are evaluating the potential market and the impact that advanced technologies might bring to bear.

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