Embraer inaugurates Phenom final assembly plant in US

(L–R) Embraer Exec Aircraft Managing Dir Phil Krull, Embraer Aircraft Holdings Pres Gary Spulak, Embraer Pres & CEO Frederico Curado, Embraer Executive Jets Exec VP Luís Carlos Affonso and Embraer Europe Senior VP Luiz Fuchs.

Embraer celebrated the opening of its Phenom final assembly facility at MLB (Melbourne FL) on Feb 21, with a ribbon-cutting event attended by Florida Governor Rick Scott as well as representatives of the US Senate, Florida State Senate, US Dept of Commerce, Brevard County and the City of Melbourne.

The occasion brought Embraer a significant step nearer to its goal of locating executive jet operations close to its largest market—North America—and to its individual customers.

Forming part of a 150,000 sq ft development on the north side of MLB, the 80,000 sq ft completions center and paint facility is referred to as Area 1. The paint building is expected to be finished in March. Area 2 will be the customer center. This will include a materials showroom and design visualization studio, and is scheduled to be finished by the time the first MLB-assembled Phenom 100 is delivered in 4Q11.

Both the entry-level Phenom 100 and the Phenom 300 light jet will be built at MLB, with some slight effect on existing production rates at GPX (Gavião Peixoto SP, Brazil). Main Phenom structures—fuselage, tail and wing assemblies—will be built in Brazil and shipped to Florida for final assembly, installation of wiring, systems and interiors, and painting.

Embraer's target capacity for its US Phenom line is 8 aircraft per month total (both 100 and 300), but the company is not ruling out further expansion. Next year should see 30 aircraft finished and delivered from MLB, and twice that figure in 2012. The company says it has no plans at present to build the midsize Legacy 450/500 at MLB.

Embraer Executive Jets Exec VP Luís Carlos Affonso notes that the customer center at MLB is the company's first. Its resources will not be limited to the Phenom 100 and 300—the facility is intended for use by worldwide customers of Embraer's entire range of business jets.

The choice of MLB has its origins in a late-2007 trade commission to Brazil headed by Florida's then-Governor Charlie Crist. Embraer announced its decision the following May. Groundbreaking at the site took place on Dec 4, 2008, and the project has remained on schedule since.

For Embraer the assembly facility and customer center represent a capital investment of over $50 million. Design and construction were carried out by 2 Melbourne-based firms—BRPH and Walbridge, respectively.

Economic Development Commis­sion of Florida's Space Coast Pres & CEO Lynda Weatherman says that MLB was competing against sites in 20 US states. Among the deal clinchers for Melbourne, according to Weatherman, were the region's aviation-based workforce, including large numbers of NASA-trained engineers, and its multimodal transportation infrastructure.

Embraer is committing to a minimum of 200 new jobs at MLB. Embraer Pres & CEO Frederico Curado predicts a workforce of 80–90 by the end of 2011 and probably twice that by Dec 2012. Embraer says that it has already hired 18 former NASA employees. Local officials have noted that annual payroll at Embraer's first North American aircraft assembly plant will exceed $10 million, translating into a local economic impact of $23 million a year.

The Phenom 100 has become a market leader in its class. Last year a total of 100 were delivered—more than any other business jet. (See Pro Pilot, Feb 2011, p 70.) Curado says, "It's premature to predict, but we're not here for the short term." —Phil Rose

Industry

As of the end of January, all 5 Gulfstream G650 flight test aircraft have taken to the skies, the latest being s/n 6005. Before its first flight, the aircraft underwent certification ground tests for lightning and high-intensity radiated fields (HIRF). The 5 G650s have now surpassed 1100 hrs in their flight test program and are on schedule for certification in 2011 and first deliveries in 2012.

Air travel will more than double in the next 20 years and will reach the 1-billion-passenger mark by 2021—2 years earlier than foreseen in last year's projection—according to the latest FAA forecast.

DOT Secretary Ray LaHood says the projection underscores the need to keep NextGen on track to accommodate future growth. FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt notes, "We are already seeing the tangible safety and efficiency benefits of NextGen.

Only a modernized air transportation system will be able to keep up with our forecast demand." The agency predicts that the number of passengers traveling on US airlines will increase by 3.5% from last year to 737.4 million passengers in 2011. That figure is projected to grow an average of 2.8% annually during the remaining forecast period to 1.3 billion by 2031.

Total landings and takeoffs at FAA-towered airports are forecast to decrease slightly in 2011, and then grow at an average annual rate of 1.6%, reaching 69.4 million in 2031.
"We have come out of the depths of the recession this year," adds Babbitt. "Commercial carriers are returning to profitability. Business aviation shows signs of rebounding. And we're projecting growth in general aviation sectors, particularly in the jet aircraft and light sport craft sectors."

In that regard, GA hours flown are forecast to increase from 24.1 million in 2010 to 37.8 million in 2031—an average annual growth rate of 2.2%.

Airbus delivered a record 15 corporate jets in 2010, with a list price value of more than $1.5 billion. The aircraft comprised 13 A318 Elites, Airbus Corporate Jetliners (ACJs) and A320 Prestiges, plus 2 VIP widebodies (A330/A340). Airbus also won 8 orders for corporate jets in 2010, taking total orders to date to more than 170. The new orders comprised 7 aircraft from the A318 Elite/ACJ/A320 Prestige family, plus 1 widebody.

Deliveries and orders were for customers and operators in Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Customers included private individuals and governments, most of which prefer to remain undisclosed.

The past year also saw more Airbus corporate jets being offered for VIP charter flights. Airbus says that "more than 15" A318 Elites, ACJs and A320 Prestiges are now available worldwide.

Embraer's Phenom 100 and 300 have been certified by the Indonesian DGAC, making Indonesia the first country in the Asia Pacific region to certify the Phenom 300. The move also increases the list of Phenom 100 certificates to 21 agencies worldwide.


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