I have been a big fan of Regional Jets or “Small Narrow Body” as they are now known as. I first got the opportunity to study them in 2011. A lot has changed in the decade since then. From CRJ and E190 to the E2 family of Embraer and the A220, the segment has come a long way since 2011. I have been lucky to fly the E190-E2 in the past and narrowly missed seeing the E195-E2 at Hyderabad in 2020 as I cancelled the trip after few cases of COVID were found in February, just when the airshow was about to begin.
When an opportunity presented itself to fly the E195-E2 to Kolhapur from Mumbai, I grabbed it with both hands. I had a special interest in E195-E2 because two years ago, I realised that this aircraft is longer than the A320 , besides I have never been to Kolhapur – having planned flights and operated for an airline in the past.
Embraer announced the E2 program in 2013 at the Paris Air Show and got the E190-E2 certified in 2018, while E195-E2 was certified in 2019. The E195-E2 first flew in March 2017 and first deliveries began in 2019 to Azul – the Brazilian carrier. The pandemic impacted the sales efforts significantly for Embraer as the E195-E2’s Entry in Service (EIS) coincided with the pandemic. Another interesting thing was happening – the merger of Embraer and Boeing, as a counter to the Bombardier – Airbus deal. A lot of airlines possibly went into a wait and watch mode. Boeing called off the deal in April 2020 – right in the middle of the pandemic.
While the E2 family has success stories in South America and EU, the APAC region has been a tough nut to track – primarily due to the Chinese focusing on their own product while carriers from other fast growing markets like India, Vietnam and Kazakhstan focusing on adding larger planes to tide over slot issues and pushing per seat costs as low as possible due to cut throat competition.
However, things are changing. The Chinese have certified the E190-E2 very recently, Bamboo Airways is opening up new routes in Vietnam with the E-jets, Omani carrier Salam Air, recently signed a deal to acquire six E195-E2s with deliveries beginning late 2023 and Royal Jordanian intending to induct a mix of E190-E2 and E195-E2.
Day of departure and First Impression
The aircraft was at Zhuhai airshow in China from where it went to Japan and Vietnam before making a stop in India on its way back to Brazil. I was tracking the aircraft from the day of invitation to day of departure and photos on social media showed that the aircraft was parked near T2 at Mumbai.
Cut to the day of departure, I reached the newly renovated General Aviation Terminal at CSMIA and was glad to see Team Embraer along with other dignitaries. Quick introductions and pleasantries later, it was time for the check-in and security procedures followed by being bussed to the aircraft.
The E195-E2 proudly sports Profit Hunter on its fuselage. We will come to that later on why Embraer calls it the profit hunter. The aircraft looks sleek, especially when you have the A320s and B737s around for comparison. The aircraft has tapered wingtips, different from the raked wingtips of the E190-E2. I was told that a good comparison of raked wingtips is the B777-300ER while the tapered wingtips are akin to the B787s. This is not the only change.
The landing gear assembly has been modified from the E1 to ensure a speedy change of landing gear during scheduled maintenance. It is the trailing link landing gear, with the “oleo” (shock absorber) replaceable on ground without having to take off the entire landing gear assembly.Additionally, the E2 family has landing gear doors (Like the A320 family), unlike the E1 or the B737s. The doors help reduce drag as compared to the wheelers being flush with the fuselage. The aircraft is powered by the Pratt & Whitney Geared TurboFan power plant (GTF), the same technology which powers the A220 and is one of the two options for A320neo family. The aircraft is “fly by wire”, has a new tail, smaller horizontal stabiliser and an updated cockpit but with commonality with E1.
This is a demo aircraft and Embraer has configured it such that it can show most options to its prospective customers. Personally, I have always been a fan of 2×2 seating as compared to 3×2 which the SSJ100 and A220 have. Sadly, I haven’t flown the E2 commercially but have flown E1 whenever I have had the opportunity – from Kazakhstan to Europe.
Next stop was the cockpit – which was pleasantly roomier with the iconic Embraer Yoke and four display screens – configurable and interchangeable. I got a quick brief about the changes in the cockpit from the older generation to this one. The digital cockpit has four screens with Electronic Flight Instrument Systems (EFIS). To top it, it has synthetic vision and Heads Up Display.
The flight was ready to pushback and I occupied my seat. In this particular aircraft, the business class is the staggered one. Air Peace of Nigeria has opted for this configuration on their E2s. Back in economy, apart from the seat numbers – there was information around seat pitch for each row with the aircraft having been configured with everything from 28 inches to 40 inches to let the prospective buyers experience how it would be for the passenger based on the pitch one selects. The “pitch for the pitch” is something I liked, seating across multiple rows to see how comfortable or not so comfortable the seats are. I am 183 cms tall and 30” onwards seemed perfect for me though I spent most of the time on the seat with 40” pitch (the emergency exit row).
We taxied past T2 and a very powerful take off from Runway Two Seven before banking left and making our way to Kolhapur. The city of Kolhapur is the headquarter of the Sanjay Ghodawat Group – which owns Star Air amongst other businesses and thanks to the runway expansion, the airline has been able to start operations to Kolhapur connecting Mumbai with the ERJ 145 aircraft in its fleet. This would be the first time that such a large aircraft would land at Kolhapur. The short flight allowed some photography and seeing the galley. One change Embraer has done is aimed at making life simple for the Flight Attendants – as they get the exact seat number from where the call button has been pressed rather than just which row. This is enabled by the individual Passenger Service Unit. There also are individual vents for the passengers.
After cruising for 15 minutes at FL250, it was time to descend and make history and we did as the E195-E2 landed on runway Zero Seven at Kolhapur and taxied to the new apron which was constructed only recently to cheers and welcome from the staff at Kolhapur Airport. As the Embraer team and the Dignitaries engaged in a discussion and photo session, I took a quick walk around of the aircraft before bidding goodbye to the plane.
The E195-E2 is 4 mtr longer than the A320neo, but 22% smaller in capacity than the A320neo (186 seats). With this being the first flight at Kolhapur, I got thinking if the expanded runway is really enough, only to realise that Azul regularly operates this type to Santos Dumont Airport which has a 1323 mtr runway. This means that Kolhapur’s runway could have handled this aircraft even before expansion, subject to PCN and bays!
Here are some images.
The Pratt & Whitney GTF engine powers the E2 family. The GTF also powers the A220 and A320neo family.
The E195-E2 engines give it a top speed of Mach 0.82 and significant reduction in fuel burn due to its high-bypass ratio.
Fly-by-wire technology helped Embraer to make the horizontal stabiliser smaller. Smaller control surfaces reduce drag and overall weight of the aircraft.
Sales pitch can often be one sided, so I was very keen to dig into what the airlines are saying about the aircraft and more importantly see where the aircraft are being deployed. I looked for this data with KLM, Helvetic amongst others. I found this information with Azul – which interestingly operates the ATR and the A320neo along with the Embraers.
Azuls presentation had some nice insights. One slide talks about how the Cost per Seat goes down as the size of aircraft becomes larger while trip cost is at the lowest for the smallest aircraft. Another side talks about how the E2 has 26% lower cost per seat than the E1. The same slide talks about the A320neo being 29% lower cost per seat than the E1. The trip cost though sees the E2 being better than the A320neo.
I also looked at the Azul network and saw that the airline is using the E2 family in a mix mode. On one hand, using the aircraft to operate virgin routes or opening new routes and on the other using it to add frequencies with a mix of E2 and A320neo operating.
Also Read: Understanding the E2 family of Embraer
Will some airline in India sign up for the E190-E2 or the E195-E2? Interestingly, Pieter Elbers – the new CEO of IndiGo comes in with many years at KLM, where the airline has successfully operated regional jets. But the European market is remarkably different.
On the other hand, airlines in India are in a vicious cycle of chasing lowest cost – which makes them buy the largest aircraft and when they cannot be filled up, one has to drop fares impacting yields. Will an airline, especially Go FIRST or SpiceJet look at the smaller jet option to differentiate? Or will Star Air climb up the ladder and move to bigger aircraft? The airline is expecting its E175s soon after having signed a lease agreement in July. With competition heating up in Indian skies, somebody has to do things differently – the question is who will take that plunge?
I would take a sentence from Azul’s presentation to close this experience – “Low cost is deploying the largest aircraft you can fill”