But the next two brands on the list – Embraer and Bombardier – are the products of much smaller countries, Brazil and Canada respectively. They’ve carved out a market in commercial aviation that the top two giants might envy, because Embraer and Bombardier build planes that fit neatly into the small to mid-size range (typically under 150 seats), popular for shorter trips and regional flights.
Embraer’s regional commercial jets, in fact, have catapulted the Brazilian company to third place in the industry, with $5.4 billion in sales last year. Embraer also builds jets for executive use and it plays a strategic role in the Brazilian air defense system. It is currently competing for a contract to supply aircraft to the U.S. Air Force.
The brand name Embraer is derived from Empresa Brasileira de Aeronáutica, a government-controlled company that started in 1969, focusing on Brazilian defense. The company was privatized in 1994 and began to concentrate on the commercial market. Since 1996, Embraer has built more than 1,000 ERJs and has delivered aircraft to more than 37 airline companies in 23 countries.
More recently, Embraer developed E-Jets, a family of four aircraft which can carry anywhere from 70 to 122 passengers. E-Jets are currently in operation in more than 45 airline companies in over 30 countries.
In 2000, Embraer entered the executive aviation market with the launch of the Legacy 600. The company has since expanded the executive line to include several additional product families.
While travelers may not always be aware of the Embraer brand name, airline executives certainly are. Embraer has done well with airlines that rely on shorter routes, which makes emerging countries with regional needs an attractive market. The company has benefited from a ten-year relationship with China; in fact, Embraer has played a major role in making China Brazil’s largest trade partner. Just this year, Embraer received an order for 20 jets worth $1.4 billion.
According to Guan Dongyuan, president of Embraer China, Embraer has become the largest supplier of aircraft up to 120 seats in China, having delivered 77 planes since 2000. “China’s booming economy fosters the development of its regional aviation market, which generate great opportunities for players in the aviation industry,” he said.
As for future growth, Embraer has been considering a 150-seat plane, but the company is wary of Boeing, which is in the midst of determining what to do about a replacement plane for the 737. Paulo Cesar de Souza e Silva, president of the commercial aviation unit, said on June 5, “We plan to wait and see what Boeing decides. We believe it’s important to have every piece of information about our competitors for us to make a sound decision.”
Silva told Aviation International News, “If we want to [expand] the company, we definitely will have to move upwards.” However, Silva said, the company would not follow in the footsteps of its competitor, Bombardier, who is developing a CS300 model with a range of 3,400 nautical miles, which puts it into direct competition with the Airbus A320neo. “We believe the [Bombardier] C Series proposition, in terms of range, is too much. Airlines won’t pay for something they will not use. I think the sweet spot is about 2,400 nautical miles. Some 95 percent of the narrowbody flying in the world is within 1,800 nautical miles.”
Embraer is subject to the same difficult market conditions as its competitors, but the company has managed to grow its market share in business jets from 2.7 percent in 2003 to 19 percent in 2010. Even during the recession of 2008, the business jet market exceeded that of ten years ago, according to Claudio Camelier, VP of marketing, executive jets. “It’s important to remember that even in the worst years of the downturn it was still a healthy market,” he said. “There were 763 deliveries in 2010, this year it will be 700 to 750, which is a level that the industry previously experienced in 2006 and back then everybody was very happy with the state of things.”
For the most part, high-flying Embraer seems to have avoided the turbulence associated with the recent recession. This is a company ready and able to navigate its future successfully.