Air Costa, which used to operate 32 daily flights to 9 destinations, will be operating 18 flights to 8 destinations starting today, 16th November, till 26th November, as the airline’s fleet temporarily reduces to just 2 aircraft – one 67 seat Embraer E170 and one 112 seat Embraer E190. No sale of flights on one of the patterns (MAA-HYD-VTZ-BLR-VTZ-HYD-MAA-JAI-MAA) was noticed on the airline’s website. This leads to VTZ not being temporarily served by Air Costa.
VT-LSR, one of the two Embraer E170s, has been pulled out of operations due to the planned return of the aircraft to its lessor. VT-LBR, one of the two Embraer E190s, operated a special Chennai-Bengaluru flight LB709 (the first 7xx flight number for the airline), which is a ferry flight turned commercial flight, before heading off for scheduled maintenance to Jordan via Muscat. This leaves only two airplanes – VT-LNR (E170) and VT-LVR (E190) in the active fleet in the short term.
In contrast to Air Costa cancelling flights, AirAsia India, which presently has one of its Airbus A320 airplanes (VT-BLR) at Hyderabad for scheduled maintenance (Since 1st November), has not allowed operations to be impacted. The airline, which recently received its 6th aircraft (VT-APJ), continues to fly 5 patterns with 5 active aircraft. VT-BLR is expected to return from maintenance today to allow VT-APJ to fly to Delhi to operate additional frequencies on existing routes, from tomorrow. (Edit: VT-BLR flew to Delhi late this morning, and will take on Delhi flights from tomorrow).
In this piece, we look into the significance of the E-Jets, particularly the 100 seat E-190, and the need for the Brazilian manufacturer’s launch of the upgraded, “Second generation” E-Jets.
The Embraer E-Jets: Making Regional Sense.
Bombardier stepped into the 70 seat jet space with the introduction of its CRJ700 into commercial operations in 2001, with Brit Air. 3 years later, Embraer introduced its 70 seat jet to commercial operations, with LOT Polish airlines. Till date, 192 Embraer E-170s have been sold, while the 70 seat CRJ700 has sold 347 airplanes.
One Embraer regional jet, that has been very well received, is the 100 seat Embraer 190, which, till date, has raked up 560 orders. No other Bombardier 70+ seat aircraft, including the C-Series has managed to touch those numbers, yet.
The Embraer 190 makes absolute sense. The typical single class cabin of the airplane accommodates 100 passengers comfortably. JetBlue, the largest operator of the E-190 with 59 aircraft, complements its Airbus A320 fleet of 129 aircraft. Jet Blue’s A320s are fitted with 150 seats.
Way back in 2003, when JetBlue had an all-Airbus A320 fleet and the cabins had 156 seats, the break-even load factor (BELF), as published by the airline, was around 72%, corresponding to 112 seats. To open up more routes which would have a demand less than this BELF, the 100 seat Embraer 190 was introduced in 2005. In the light of its reduced A320 seating, and spiralling fuel prices, the airline’s A320’s BELF has only gone up, further stressing the need for the Embraer 190.
Embraer acknowledges that a big advantage for E-Jet operators today is their ability to use the aircraft to “right-size” in lower-density markets.
But also acknowledged in 2010 was the realisation that if Airbus or Boeing re-engine their narrowbodies, and achieve better costs per trip, the advantage enjoyed by the E-Jets would disappear.
The upgrade saga
This left only two options for Embraer: Introduce a clean-sheet airplane that competes with Airbus and Boeing’s popular narrowbody families-A320 and 737-an idea that has played with Embraer since 2009; or do something to the existing offering to retain the regional jet family’s attractiveness to operators.
Late 2011, Embraer formally confirmed its decision to abandon the development of a competing airplane (which otherwise would have put 4 players in the coveted segment, including Bombardier with its C-Series), and instead focus on enhancing the value of the Embraer 170 and 190 families through a possible stretch and a definite re-engine, at an estimated program cost of US$1.7 billion. This was the outcome of Boeing announcing the delivery of the 737Max in 2017: a period too short for Embraer to both hold its grip on the market with its existing offering while developing a competing airliner. This also reflects the industry’s lower appetite for risk.
Embraer started working with E-Jet customers to define the performance goals and technical characteristics of the new aircraft family. One of the considerations was a composite airframe. Early 2012, Air Lease Corp advised Embraer to stretch the Embraer E-190 by 1 row (4 seats) and the E-195 by 2-3 rows (8-12 seats). The aim was to add capacity to compete with the CS100, while allowing for pricing flexibility in the light of much lower development costs associated with an airplane upgrade rather than a clean sheet design. Adding to this advantage is the huge customer base of Embarer’s E-Jets. A customer would prefer an upgrade “within the aircraft family" for near-seamless operational integration, rather than an all-new aircraft.
Embraer claims to be not just re-engining, but investing heavily to achieve the efficiency of a clean-sheet design. In January 2013, Embraer selected the Pratt and Whitney Geared Turbofan PW1000G series to power the second generation E170 and E190/E195 aircraft, which it calls the “E-Jet E2 family". The wings will feature a higher aspect ratio, longer wingspan, and raked wing tips instead of winglets. The landing gear will be lengthened to accommodate the larger engines, and the flight deck will feature the Honeywell’s Primus Epic™ 2 advanced integrated avionics system with large landscape displays, advanced graphics capabilities, and Honeywell’s Next Generation Flight Management System (NGFMS). The new airplanes will be 100% fly-by-wire, unlike the in-production E-Jets.
Unlike the C-Series, the wings for the E-Jet E2 are all metal, as, according to Embraer, composites aren’t cost-effective for such-sized airplanes. Embarer’s late announcement of the selection of the geared turbofan actually stands in its favour: the airframer benefits from Pratt and Whitney’s work on the smaller PW1200G for the Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ), and the larger, mature PW1500G for the C-Series, both of which engine families are almost identical to those being offered for the E-Jets.: The PW1700G for the E175-E2 and the larger PW1900G for the E190/195-E2.
The reason to select the Geared Turbofan is not just the gear in the fan, which optimises fan speeds for greater efficiencies. The significant thermal margins available can allow for future engine thrust upgrades, allowing for further aircraft upgrades with the same engine family.
Plane Facts & 4-cast
The E-175 E2 can seat 88 passengers in a single class, in a comfortable 31" seat pitch. The in-production E-175 can seat only 78 passengers, comfortably, and 88 with an undesirable 29" seat pitch.
The E-190-E2, which is poised to continue the legacy of the well-performing in production E-190, comfortably seats an additional 6 passengers in a uniform 31" seat pitch. The existing E-190 can seat 114 passengers, but with a compromised seating comfort. The fuel efficiencies of the E-190-E2 lend it more range than the E-190.
The E-195-E2 seats 132 passengers in a uniform 31" seat pitch. The In-production E-195 can seat no more than 124 passengers in high capacity, and 116 in single class (with 31% of the seats featuring a 32" pitch, and 69% featuring a 31" pitch). Sometime in 2009, Embraer had studied an aircraft of such capacity, dubbed the E-195X, which would have used the same engines as the E-195. The concept was eventually dropped in 2010 the light of degraded aircraft performance in the absence of a re-engine.
Owing to its poor sales and the drop in demand for 70 seat jets, the E-170 won’t be re-engined.
Embraer’s best bet is on the 106 seat E-190-E2, and hence is focusing all its energy in targeting an entry-into-service (EIS) of mid-2018. The E-195-E2 will follow in 2019, and the E175-E2 in 2020.
Embraer foresees a demand for 6,400 commercial jets with capacity of up to 130 seats, over the next 20 years. With more than 1,200 E-Jets orders, Embraer has achieved a 42% market share in its segment. While Embraer will aggressively compete with Bombardier’s CS100, its present and future E-Jet offering has, and will eclipse Bombardier’s present line up of the CRJ family: CRJ700, CRJ900 and the CRJ1000, all three now marketed with the NextGen suffixes. Embraer is poised to grab a large share of that forecasted market.
*This section builds on research for a comprehensive article on the C-Series by The Flying Engineer.
Bombardier’s success with the CRJ 100/200 airplanes, which eventually sold 935 units, made it explore significantly larger capacity airplanes, in the 100 seat segment. According to Bombardier’s study in 1998, there was a growing requirement for larger aircraft in the fleets of the world’s regional airlines. To keep up with the growth in mainline fleets, Bombardier felt that regional fleet must grow in both size and capacity. The company felt that if the regional fleet did not grown beyond 50 seats, the number of 50-seaters required to satisfy demand would quadruple.
Bombardier identified a gap between its 50-70 seat CRJ series, and the smallest of the Airbus and Boeing single aisle offering: the Airbus A318 and the Being 737-600, both with typical single class capacity of around 120 passengers. Even before a formal launch, Bombardier had unveiled during the Farnborough Air show in 1998 the 88 seat BRJ-X-90 and the 110 seat BRJ-X-110, the “BRJ" short for Bombardier Regional Jet.
The BRJ-X-110 was applauded by airlines as a true 100 seat airplane, unlike attempts by Airbus and Boeing to scale down much larger airplanes. Although during that time, the first of the Brazilian Embraer E-Jets, the 80 seat ERJ 170, competitor to the CRJ700, hadn’t yet taken to the skies, published drawings of the BRJ-X airplanes bore an external resemblance to the new Embraer jets. But the cabin was wider, with a 5 abreast seating.
Threats from the new Embraer jets, which had a significant head start, and the then Fairchild-Dornier’s 50-110 seat regional jetliners, forced Bombardier to rethink the BRJ program. Late 1999, despite having further matured the design of its “paper airplanes", Bombardier switched focus from the BRJ-X-90 to the stretched CRJ700: the 90 seat CRJ 900. According to Michael Graff, the then President of Bombardier Aerospace, “ They (airlines) have told us that a simple stretch of the CRJ 700series rather than an all new aircraft in the 90 seat category will meet their requirements for increased capacity at reduced acquisition and operating costs"
Mid 2000, although the BRJ-X-90 was killed, the entire BRJ program was suspended, but never cancelled. In the March of 2004, the 114 seat Embraer 190 took to the skies on its first flight, and Bombardier had no airplane to compete in that class. In July of the same year, Bombardier announced the development of the C Series as a replacement for the shelved BRJ-X project.
The C Series then had two variants: the 125 seat CS110 and the 145 seat CS130. But after failing to secure significant orders, and in the light of the certification of the Embraer 190 in 2005, the program was shelved in early 2006, and the focus again shifted to lengthening the CRJ series, to a 100 seat CRJ1000.
In the July of 2006, EASA certified the 124 passenger Embraer 195, competing directly with the shelved CS110. Bombardier was trailing its only significant regional jet competitor, Embraer, with no competing airplane.
Early 2007, Bombardier re-commenced work on the C Series program. In the July of 2008, Bombardier officially launched the C Series, with a letter of interest for 60 aircraft and 30 options from Lufthansa.
Having the right product at the right time bode well for the Brazilian airframer. The CRJ 700, 900 and 1000 combined have orders (as of 30 June 2013) of 723 airplanes, of which 91 are unfulfilled. On the other hand, the Brazilian Embraer E-Jets, comprising the E-170/175 and 190/195 families, have total firm orders of 1213, of which 266 are unfulfilled. Bombardier had to stop trailing and start leading, and focus on the clean sheet C Series was the only way out.
*This section is part of a much bigger, comprehensive article on the C-Series by The Flying Engineer.
3. Embraer 190STD: MSN 593, leased from GECAS, yet to be registered in India.
4. Embraer 190AR: MSN 608, leased from GECAS, yet to be registered in India.
The 170AR version has a range of about 2,200NM with 66 passengers. The cabin of the two E-170ARs are dual class: 6 first class seats with a luxurious 40″ seat pitch and 20″ seat width, and 60 economy seats with a very comfortable 32″ seat pitch and 18.25″ seat width.
The Two E-170s are about 3years 7 months old, and were formerly flying for Gulf Air. The E-190s, however, seem to be new airplanes.
The E-190s may also have a dual class cabin: 8 first class seats with a luxurious 38″ seat pitch and 20″ seat width, and 88 economy seats with a comfortable 31″ seat pitch and 18.25″ seat width. The 190STD has a range of about 2000NM with 96 passengers, and the 190AR, with the same payload, has a range of about 2,500NM.
The video shows The Embrarer E-190, MSN 608, which was originally intended to be leased by Estonian Air from GECAS. However, the carrier didn’t take the airplane, and the airplane now has a new operator: Air Costa.
Interestingly, Paramount Airways, had leased its two Embraer E-170s from ECC Leasing and its 3 E-175s from GECAS.
Air Costa’s all-inclusive “Economy” airfare from Vijayawada to Bangalore is INR 2,798. In contrast, the lowest available airfare on the same day, from competing carriers, is INR 6,242 (Air India, one stop). The only other direct flight is operated by Jet Airways on their ATR-72, and this is priced at INR 10,200.
The “Economy Plus”, which essentially buys you one of the 6 first class seats on the airplane, is priced at INR 11,876, all inclusive.
Air Costa’s Vijayawada to Bangalore is a 1 hour flight direct flight, departing at 0645IST and landing at 0745IST.
At the moment, bookings are open only till the 26th of October, 2013 (2 weeks from the scheduled first flight: 14th October 2013). The published airfares could possibly be for a “promotional” period.