Pilot Journal
Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Something Like A Phenomenon

Flying Embraer’s first entry-level jet, the Phenom 100

Embraer, The Company From light aircraft to airliners
By Ben Marcus

phenomEmbraer is the third-largest aircraft manufacturer in the world, smaller than only Boeing and Airbus. The company builds airliners, military aircraft and business aircraft. Though its roots go as far back as the 1940s, Embraer was officially formed in 1969 by Brazil’s General Command for Aerospace Technology (CTA), which remains immediately adjacent to Embraer’s headquarters facility in São José dos Campos, Brazil. The CTA is a research and teaching institution that graduates thousands of highly talented engineers each year.

Many people think of Embraer as an airliner manufacturer, but in fact, the company has been building light aircraft since its inception. In the 1970s, Embraer built many Piper products under license. The first pressurized Embraer airplane was the EMB 121 Xingu, which was a twin-turboprop business airplane that first flew in 1975. There are still many Xingus operating in Brazil and in Africa. The company’s first major airliner success story was the EMB 120 Brasilia turboprop, which entered service in 1985.

As the market for the Brasilia began drying up in the early 1990s, Embraer struggled and was nearly disbanded. Maurício Botelho, an investor, visionary and skilled salesman, is credited with saving the company. He led Embraer’s privatization and investment in the ERJ 145 program, which was the catalyst for Embraer’s rapid growth through the late 1990s and into the 2000s. Embraer has been aggressive with new product development, introducing the E-Jets series of 70- to 110-seat airliners in 1999. Customers include JetBlue, Air Canada and US Airways.

Embraer’s entry into the bizjet market was the Legacy, a derivative of the popular ERJ series of airline regional jets. Today, Embraer’s lineup of business jets includes the Phenom 100 VLJ and 300 light jet, the Legacy 450 and 500 midsize jets (in development), the Legacy 600 super-midsize jet and the Lineage 1000 ultralarge-cabin business jet, a derivative of the E-190 airliner.

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