Flight_International 28Jan2020

(Jacob Rumans) #1


flightglobal.com 28 January-3 February 2020 | Flight International | 7

Spin cycle

In the 2000s, the turboprop airliner seemed to have run its course, but now
Embraer believes it is time customers were given more choice in the sector

Artist’s impression


y the end of this year or early next, we
should get a look at the future of deep-
space travel. It will not carry a crew, but
NASA’s Artemis I around-the-Moon-and-
back flight will demonstrate the capsule,
life-support system and mighty Space
Launch System rocket being designed and
tested to carry astronauts back to where
they left off in 1972 with the final Apollo
The plan is then – on the orders of Pres-
ident Donald Trump – to press on and
land American boots by 2024. Artemis II
will carry a human crew around the
Moon, and three or more Artemis support
missions will deliver and assemble the
Gateway space station, which will sit
most of the way to the Moon and serve as
jumping-off point for surface sorties.
Before we get too excited, we have been
here before. President George W Bush
aimed for a 2020 return – or maybe 2019
to mark the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11

  • but his scheme was so far behind sched-
    ule and over budget that Barack Obama,
    taking office just as the financial crisis was
    really getting going, axed it.
    Trump’s Artemis vision has delivered
    a NASA budget explosion, to nearly $
    billion this year, but even a lot more
    money may not overcome the fact that
    critical components like Gateway and a
    lander can at best be said to be in
    If Trump is not re-elected, a new
    president may be minded to spend bil-
    lions restoring crumbling American infra-
    structure, educating children and fighting
    climate change rather than chasing moon-
    dust. A second-term Trump may pivot to
    do the same, find himself grappling with
    recession or war, or even deciding that a
    behind-schedule programme should be
    given more time – and left in a successor’s
    in-tray. ■


f the stars align, the world could have the
first all-new large turboprop passenger air-
craft for four decades within five years.
The irony is that this is the proposition
from Embraer – a stalwart of jet-powered re-
gional aircraft that helped contribute to the
near-extinction of the turboprop “race”.
Embraer’s case for a next-generation turbo-
prop airliner is a strong one – pointing to the
environmental and economic benefits, as
well as the market disruption it could bring.
Today’s market leader, ATR, and its large-
turboprop competitor, the De Havilland Can-
ada Dash 8 – along with smaller turboprops
such as the Saab 340 and Embraer Brasilia –
owned the regional sector for much of the
late 20th century.
That all changed in the mid-1990s, when a
modified Canadian business jet design with
50 seats crashed their party. Embraer was
quick to identify the threat from the Bombar-
dier CRJ, and created its own 50-seater, the
ERJ. The two OEMs shipped 2,000 small re-
gional jets between them from 1993 to 2005.
Their value proposition to regional opera-
tors was compelling: big jet-like passenger
experience, faster sector times and competi-
tive economics.
Turboprop manufacturers were caught in a
perfect storm, as the regional jet generation
arrived in tandem with a high-profile US tur-
boprop accident – the infamous Roselawn
tragedy in which 68 people died – combining
to effectively render obsolete the propeller-
driven airliner in North America.
By the early 2000s, turboprop production

was at a trickle. Only ATR and, ironically,
Bombardier, kept the faith. In 2003, just 29 air-
craft were delivered globally while over 300
Bombardier and Embraer jets were shipped.
But the props weren’t done. New technol-
ogy like active noise control improved the
passenger experience, while engine upgrades
enhanced performance. Bombardier created
an enlarged Dash 8 that could carry 70-
passengers at jet-like speeds. And the rising
fuel price from around 2005 hit small-jet
economics hard.

So the large turboprop sector bounced back
as the 50-seat jet era ended. Deliveries
averaged a healthy 100 aircraft per year during
the 2010s, with ATR the market leader.
Embraer – a major player in the market
with its E-Jet series – believes the sector is
ripe for disruption. It is confident it can cre-
ate a headache for the current turboprop
players without diluting the market for its jet
portfolio. The question is: will Embraer’s pro-
spective new partner Boeing have the appe-
tite to support such a venture? We won’t have
to wait too long to find out. ■

Still going strong

Andre Cros/Ville de Toulouse/Wikimedia Commons

See News Focus P

See This Week P

Deliveries have averaged a

healthy 100 aircraft per year

during the 2010s, with ATR

the market leader



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