Often our own work experience shapes our perspective of the industry, creating a myopic view of our huge, diverse industry. Mine was developed early on while working in the airline industry where work places were often huge old military or manufacturing spaces that were noisy, dusty, hot, or cold depending on the day or season, and staffed by multitudes of seemingly frenetic employees.
This version was soon to be upgraded when Embraer’s media relations manager for North America Elisa Donel, invited AMT magazine to attend the news media open house on Sept. 6 at Embraer’s Executive Jets Campus in Melbourne, FL. Also attended by journalists, magazine editors, cameramen, and the local press, we got a briefing from the executive staff and a guided tour of the campus. We were treated like customers and all questions were answered.
Our briefing began with a presentation about the “Space Coast of Florida,” the Economic Development Commission (EDC) and Embraer’s collaborative efforts and negotiations necessary for Embraer to locate the Phenom 100 and 300 final assembly and paint facility and global customer center at Melbourne International Airport.
Embraer is a multinational corporation headquartered in So José dos Campos, Brazil, that designs, develops, manufactures, and sells aircraft and systems for the commercial aviation, executive aviation, and defense and security segments. It is the world’s largest manufacturer of commercial jets up to 120 seats, with offices and operations in six countries including the United States for 33 years.
Founded in 1969, Embraer has a workforce of about 18,000 employees and its firm order backlog is around $16 billion (US). In 2004-2005, a 10-year market assessment showed a potential for 8,500 business jets worth $138 billion (US), so in 2005, Embraer formed Embraer Executive Jets to compete in the entry-level and light jet segments with the Phenom 100 and Phenon 300. Its assessment appears to be on track. In a recent web cast, Embraer discussed its 2012 second quarter performance numbers: 20 jets were delivered to the executive aviation market, 17 of those were light jets (seven Phenom 100s delivered from Melbourne, 10 Phenom 300s).
In today’s economics those are great numbers but could be better, according to Ernie Edwards, head of Embraer’s Executive Jets business. Edwards told Reuters in an interview at the August Latin American Business Aviation Conference and Exhibition (LABACE) in So Paulo, Brazil, that, “Embraer wants 30 percent of the business jet market” and it appears that the Phenom series is the airplane that will help get that 30 percent and maybe more.
The Phenom 100 and the 300 are entry-level jets and were designed specifically to compete in the single-pilot executive and business market. The 100 has a capacity for four passengers, the 300 holds six. About 240 Phenom 100s have been sold and there is a nice back order.
This aircraft is what the Embraer staff call a “clean-sheet” design and represents true innovations in business jets. It is not a scaled down version of other company aircraft.
Melbourne Executive Jet Campus and staff
Embraer’s Executive Jet Campus houses the Phenom assembly facilities, global customer center, and the future engineering and technology center to be completed in 2014. The tour of the Melbourne Campus was a high-voltage jolt to my mental model of our aviation industry. The Embraer campus was a “green-field project” and all the new buildings and their interior could be featured on the pages of Architectural Digest. The assembly facility was like no other that I have ever worked in, visited, or read about.
Working from a “clean sheet” is how Phil Krull, managing director, Melbourne Operation, describes the campus design philosophy. The final assembly facility in particular is bright, air-conditioned, impossibly clean, and quiet. It is a very high-tech facility using the latest computer systems, manufacturing tools, jigs, fixtures, and processes. In a prior phone interview Krull states, “We are justly proud of this facility in which we combined highly educated, high-tech people with advanced production techniques that are on the leading edge of modern aircraft production.”
Embraer opened the Melbourne production facility in February 2011 and the nearby 58,000-square-foot Global Customer Center on December 5, 2011.