On the same day, August 28, Embraer received both welcome and potentially unwelcome news from Japan Airlines (JAL) concerning the manufacturer’s E-Jets and E-Jets-E2 families.
The good news for Embraer is that Japan Airlines has signed a firm order for a total of 15 Embraer 170s and Embraer 190s and has optioned an additional 12 E-Jets. The aircraft will be operated by JAL subsidiary J-Air on domestic routes and will add to an existing fleet of 15 Embraer 170s already operated by the domestic carrier.
This will mean that within a few years J-Air will be operating a total of at least 30 Embraer E-Jets.
“We have been operating our E-Jets for five years and the aircraft have achieved an outstanding 99.7% dispatch reliability. They are efficient and have displayed exceptional performance,” says Yoshiharu Ueki, representative director and president of Japan Airlines.
“Having the combination of E170s and E190s in our fleet will give us greater flexibility, enabling us to match capacity with demand on routes within our existing and future networks,” adds Ueki. “Our passengers have been impressed with the space and comfort on board our E170. They value the fact that there is no middle seat.”
However, the potentially bad news for Embraer is that, also on August 28, JAL has signed a letter of intent (LOI) with Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation to order 32 Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) aircraft, as the next-generation regional jet for the JAL Group.
JAL says it plans to have J-Air begin deploying the MRJs on domestic routes in 2021.
Coupled with the fact that JAL’s LOI for MRJs is similar in terms of aircraft numbers to the number of E-Jets that J-Air will be operating, the date J-Air’s first MRJs will enter service strongly suggests Japan Airlines will not order any aircraft from the Embraer E-Jets E2 family as replacements for the 30 or more E-Jets J-Air will be operating by 2020.
The E-Jets E2 family is the Brazilian manufacturer’s second-generation E-Jets family and is planned to enter service in the first half of 2018. Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation is expecting to make the first customer delivery of an MRJ in 2017.
Although Embraer has not provided a breakdown of the numbers of new Embraer 170s and Embraer 190 jets JAL has ordered, it values JAL’s new 15-aircraft firm order at $677 million, based on 2014 list prices. The order will be included in Embraer’s 2014 third-quarter backlog.
Deliveries of the newly ordered E-Jets are scheduled to begin in 2015.
Although Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation has not provided any details of its new LOI with Japan Airlines, sources suggest that JAL is planning to order both the MRJ70 and MRJ90 versions of the Mitsubishi Regional Jet family.
The MRJ70 and MRJ90 are very similar in size and capacity to the Embraer 170 and the Embraer 190, respectively.
To date, Embraer has not offered an E-Jets E2 model which is comparable in size and capacity to the Embraer 170, the smallest member of the four-member E-Jets family. The smallest member of the E-Jets E2 family is the Embraer 175-E2, which has a seat capacity approximately 10 seats greater than that of the Embraer 170.
The proven suitability of the Embraer 170 for J-Air’s network for could provide one reason why JAL has decided to order the MRJ family as its next-generation regional jet instead of the E-Jets E2 family. Another reason could be that JAL may be under strong political pressure to order the domestically produced MRJ family.
“It is a reaffirmation of the family concept to see the E190 complementing the E170 fleet also in Japan, enhancing J-Air’s operations, and delivering a seamless passenger experience across its network,” says Paulo Cesar Silva, president and CEO of Embraer Commercial Aviation. “The airline will also benefit from the high level of commonality between the two E-Jet types.”
J-Air currently operates 176 daily flights and serves a domestic network of 21 cities. Among its destinations are Osaka-Itami, Sapporo, Sendai, Kagoshima, Miyazaki, and Fukuoka.
The MRJ70 and MRJ90 will respectively be powered by the PW1215G and PW1217G versions of the new Pratt & Whitney PurePower PW1000G geared-turbofan engine family.
Pratt & Whitney expects each of the many versions of its new PW1000G family to be at least 15 per cent more fuel-efficient than its most closely comparable, current-generation competitor. (For the PW1200G models, the closest competitors are versions of today’s GE Aviation CF34-8 and CF34-10 engines, versions of which power the Embraer 170 and the Embraer 190, respectively.)