Air Transport World

A quick bargain: passengers' preference for jets and operators' determination to keep costs down may make the EMB-145 a winner.

Sao Jose dos Campos, Brazil--Make no mistake. Production of Embraer's new 50-seat EMB-145 regional jet is a crucial step in the recovery of the debt-ridden Brazilian aerospace manufacturer.

The move by this pioneer producer of turboprop-powered regional aircraft is bold, yet ironic. Its 18-seat Bandeirante became one of the first bona fide regional aircraft when it initially rolled off the assembly line in the 1960s.

The 30-seat Brasilia, first produced in 1983, continues as a workhorse for several airlines around the world. More than 240 Brasilias and 66 Bandeirantes still are in service.

Yet, the company has chosen a relatively low-cost twinjet to carry it into the future. By so doing, the manufacturer has created a marketing dilemma: How to sell a new jet while not forgetting about the still-viable turboprop Brasilia. Nevertheless, the public's growing apprehension about turboprops, fueled by the recent Brasilia crash in Georgia, may have settled the question for Embraer.

Consider this telling comment to a Florida newspaper months ago by Michael H. Warwick, senior vice president-sales for Embraer Aircraft Corp., the Ft. Lauderdale-based sales and support subsidiary: "Passengers today don't want to see propellers. They want jets, because they think they are safer. But passengers aren't willing to pay the [ticket] price needed to support a jet, which is typically more expensive to operate than a turboprop. …

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