I have been a fan of the Regional Jets since the time I first studied them for the Indian market in 2011. Since then I have tracked this market, not just in India but the entire APAC region and sometimes keeping tab of the market in EU for the way airlines deploy the regional jets. My article on Regional Jets & India has been one of the most read and searched articles. On this backdrop, in late February, when I was invited to fly from Mumbai to Delhi on the all new Embraer E190-E2, I did not bat an eyelid before accepting it.
Embraer announced the E2 program in 2013 at the Paris Air Show and got the E190-E2 certified in 2018. However, like its competitor the A220 (erstwhile C-series), Embraer has also found it difficult to make in-roads in the market and APAC has been a difficult nut to crack for both. As of today, the type is in operation with 2 airlines – Norway’s Widerøe and Kazakhstan’s Air Astana.
The Embraer team kept me well informed about the timings, details, documentation and everything, for the ferry from Mumbai to Delhi. A week to departure, I kept tracking the aircraft PR-ZGQ, which had transited through Ahmedabad sometime last year on its way to Kathmandu.
Cut to the day of departure, I reached the designated place ( General Aviation Terminal – CSIA) at scheduled time to be greeted by Team Embraer from Asia Pacific to talk about the demo tour, the popularity of this particular aircraft, the response of airlines, economics of the plane, how it can make a difference and a lot more.
Soon it was time to be bussed to the aircraft, which was parked at Terminal 2 having arrived from Bengaluru early in the morning. The bus took the road adjacent to Apron L at Mumbai, where lie the grounded planes of Jet Airways.
Embraer has been painting their aircraft with animal themes. One of the E190-E2 was painted with Tiger face earlier while the E195-E2 was painted with an Eagle. PR-ZGQ – the aircraft currently doing the world demo tour is painted with the shark. The company calls the aircraft “Profit Hunter” and this is proudly written on the fuselage.
I was elated to see the Shark staring at me – pictures were not possible with the back lit sky, but a quick walk around was definitely possible. The aircraft is powered by 2 x Pratt & Whitney PW1900 series engines and this particular aircraft is powered by the PW1922G and the additional thrust was in display during the take-off roll. There were few things about the plane which I noticed or were told to me by the knowledgeable team from Embraer. The first was the raked wing-tips which made me think if the marriage between Boeing & Embraer was made in heaven! The other was the change in the landing gear assembly which will help speed up a change of landing gear. The E2 family has landing gear doors (Like the Airbus A320 family) unlike the E1 where the wheels are flush with the fuselage but there are no doors (Like the B737 series).
I was welcomed inside the aircraft by the Embraer team of pilots and technical staff. This is a ferry flight and on a demo tour, in line with regulations there were two cabin crew but this is not a flight with service and is still a test aircraft. The cabin is refreshing and I have always been a fan of 2×2 seating unlike the 3×3 or the 3×2 (Which the A220 and the Sukhoi Super Jet SSJ100 have) and I have always enjoyed my flights on the E-jets, CRJs as well as the ATRs for the seating.
Walking down the aisle, I noticed that apart from the seat numbers there was information around seat pitch and as more and more prospects come and see the plane, this must be helping Embraer “pitch for the pitch”. I am 183 cms tall, that’s 6 feet and some more and I tried a couple of rows – from 34” to 29” with the seat in front at normal position and the seat in front reclining in. Needless to say, I enjoyed being seated on the seat with 34” pitch the most, but 29” was bearable. From Mumbai to Delhi, I had occupied a seat which had 32” pitch and the journey was comfortable.
Next stop was cockpit. For the size of the aircraft, the cockpit looked roomier and the iconic Embraer Yoke with four display screens was a great sight. I was briefed about the old, the new and the fancy stuff in this cockpit. This included things I already knew about flying and learnt many more. The digital cockpit has four screens with Electronic Flight Instrument Systems (EFIS). The first thing I noticed was Jeppeson charts, showing our location at Mumbai Airport and the next was a map which showed a flight path to Moscow from Mumbai, which led me to ask some questions only to be answered that the plane can go to Moscow with full load of passengers but restriction on luggage – that’s quite a range for what is known as “Regional Jet”.
The flight deck team was kind enough to show and explain various functions, the switches, dials, buttons and the options on EFIS including planning flight plans, changing it to direct routings during the flight ending with the various warnings – starting with a fire warning and ending with the infamous – Terrain, Pull up!
The sun was almost down and it was time to go down and click one good picture of the plane as the pilots took their position and got busy with requesting clearances for the flight to New Delhi. Doors were closed, the Embraer team occupied their favourite places on the plane and I looked for a place behind the wing to see the wing and get a good view during the flight.
Munching on some Brazilian nuts, we pushed back. I was briefed by the crew on the safety aspects of the plane and the safety card in the seat pocked explained further. Seats buckled up, I was ready for this flight. As we taxied out, I was thinking how this was so different from the commercial airliner where the briefing in two languages would be going on right now followed by attracting passengers to the on-board sales! Seat Belt fastened, window shades open, phone switched off and well settled in the seat, I was looking forward to the powerful take-off. We taxied out to N1 and had a nice and powerful rolling take-off in westerly direction flying at runway heading for a while before banking right and setting course to New Delhi.
Soon after take-off, dinner was offered and it was one of the best meals I have had in-flight. The quantity was overwhelming! Post dinner it was time to explore the aircraft again, visit the lavatory, see the galley and then play around with the mood-lighting system – which included clicking a picture of the aircraft in Network Thoughts colors (well almost)!
I have been a fan of the E-jets for their large windows – any aviation geek likes larger windows. Last year when I traveled from Warsaw to Vilnius on the E-jets with LOT Polish, I had posted a photo of the same and I was definitely happy to see the window size again. The panel above the passenger has separate fixture for light, air condition vent and the call crew button, giving the setup a different feel than the A320 I am so used to.
The control system in the galley shows exactly which passenger has pressed the call crew button unlike the other aircraft where the crew just knows which row has the call crew button pressed. I felt this was innovative to help with the service. The last thing to check was the over head bins, which open upwards and the E2 allows 4 standard size bags to be accommodated, which helps it accommodate 1 standard size bag per passenger in standard configuration.
It was soon time to land and I had to settle back in my seat all buckled up. But before I went back I walked from row 1 to the last with a decibel meter application on my mobile to check for the noise. I have been on the Geared Turbo Fan (GTF) powered engines on the A320neo and also on the CFM powered A320neo and found the GTF very silent except for the take-off and landing phase and I wanted to see how the GTF on the E2 is. Surprisingly, only the section of the plane near the engines recorded sound close to 80 decibel while the rest of the cabin was either hovering between 55 and 60. I had another question for which I got the answer later. The left side aft door of the plane being smaller than the one on the right. The door is exactly as the E1 family and while I thought it cannot be used for normal passenger operations, I was told that it is certified and can be used for passenger operations.
Smooth descend later, we landed on runway 10 and taxied to the general aviation parking near Terminal 1. Thanking every one for this wonderful opportunity, I deplaned and it was time for one more picture before saying good bye to the aircraft. It was an opportunity like no other and I made the most out of it.
Let’s see if any airline in the region agrees with my view on Regional Jets and understands the market well or if I will have to rely on trips to Europe to experience this jet!
You can see more pictures on Instagram