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Bombardier, Embraer battle for single-aisle space

An artist’s conception of Embraer SA’s new E2 family of jets. Embraer, a fierce competitor against Bombardier in the market for regional jets, is upgrading its fleet and taking aim at Bombardier’s $3.4-billion C Series.


A dogfight in the single-aisle airplane market is heating up and Bombardier Inc. is the target.

Embraer SA, a fierce competitor against Bombardier in the market for regional jets, is upgrading its fleet and taking aim at Bombardier's $3.4-billion C Series.

The latest shots were fired at the Paris Air Show, where Embraer announced changes to its E-Jets family.

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The move ratchets up competition in two key Bombardier airplane segments.

As Bombardier sets its sights on challenging aerospace giants Airbus SAS and Boeing Co. in the market for single-aisle airplanes, it now faces stepped-up pressure from Embraer in the regional jet market as the Brazilian company joins the challenge to the two dominant players in the 100- to 160-seat market.

Embraer's entry could also force Bombardier to quickly refine its C Series and existing CRJ regional jets, as the new rival seeks market share.

Embraer said it will offer new versions of larger E-Jets by the end of the decade.

Its E175, E190 and E195 jets will offer new, more fuel-efficient engines – the same power plants available on Bombardier's C Series – and more modern wings that will help reduce fuel consumption, noise, emissions and maintenance costs.

The E175-E2 will offer an additional row of seats so that it can carry 88 passengers, while the E195-E2 will add three rows of seats that will enable to carry 132 travellers. That's the heart of the single-aisle segment targeted by the C Series, which is scheduled to make its first flight during the next 14 days.

"We have been continually investing in the E-Jets program, so that our customers can stay competitive with aircraft that have the lowest operating costs and the highest passenger appeal, today and in the future," Paul Cesar Silva, president of Embraer Commercial Aviation, said in a statement.

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The announcement was accompanied by orders, options and letters of intent for 365 planes.That included 100 firm orders and 100 options from SkyWest Inc. that could be worth as much as $9.3-billion (U.S.). In addition, Embraer landed 25 firm orders for the E195-E2 from International Lease Finance Corp., a leasing company that so far has not ordered any C Series planes.

The C Series is scheduled to enter service next year, five years ahead of the new Embraer plane.

That gives Bombardier plenty of time to improve the plane and benefit from efficiencies Pratt & Whitney will make to the engines, said Addison Schonland, a partner in consulting firm AirInsight.

"What we have here is a mature solution in C Series by the time E2 comes out," Mr. Schonland said.

But the redesigned planes are a serious shot at Bombardier in the market for regional jets, which take passengers on short routes to larger centres where they transfer to intercontinental or transcontinental flights. Analysts regard the new Embraer planes as a more of a threat to Bombardier's CRJ regional jet business than to the C Series.

The announcement of 365 orders and potential orders for the Embraer jets shows that market acceptance is already strong, said industry analyst Cameron Doerksen, who follows Bombardier for National Bank Financial.

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AirInsight's Mr. Schonland said the orders show that the market is already forcing Bombardier to upgrade its regional jets to compete.

"Bombardier clearly has to tweak the CRJ because they won't have the money yet from the C Series program to be able to afford another redesign on their CRJ," he said.

He suggested Bombardier buy the fuel-efficient engines Pratt & Whitney has sold to Mitsubishi for its regional jet and put them on the CRJ planes.

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About the Author
Auto and Steel Industry Reporter

Greg Keenan has covered the automotive and steel industries for The Globe and Mail since 1995. He also writes about broader manufacturing trends. He is a graduate of the University of Toronto and of the University of Western Ontario School of Journalism. More


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