By Tim Hepher
LISBON (Reuters) -Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer voiced “full support” for Pratt & Whitney as it battles durability problems on its latest jet engines, but blamed a separate business tussle with engine makers for the suspension of a new turboprop plane project.
Chief Executive Francisco Gomes Neto told reporters that Raytheon Technologies unit Pratt & Whitney was working hard to overcome premature wear problems grounding some jets.
“I am personally involved in this; we recently visited them… We believe they have the competence to resolve the problems,” Gomes Neto told a media briefing in Portugal, adding that Embraer jets had been less affected than other models.
The world’s third-largest planemaker uses Pratt Whitney’s Geared Turbofan engines on its latest E2 series of jets.
Similar engines are available on the larger Airbus A320neo family and are at the centre of a dispute between Pratt and India’s GoFirst over the cause of the airline’s bankruptcy.
Gomes Neto said Embraer was involved in ongoing campaigns for potential commercial jet sales covering a total of more than 200 airplanes, which he said would support a goal of restoring annual jet deliveries to 100 a year within 3-4 years.
Speaking at an annual media event, he reaffirmed that the company’s plans for a new turboprop aircraft were “on hold” and blamed a lack of attractive business offers from engine makers.
“We have not yet found the right engine solution,” he said.
The market for roughly 50-70-seat turboprops is dominated by Franco-Italian firm ATR, owned by Airbus and Leonardo. China is developing the Xian MA700.
Industry sources say faltering efforts to develop a further competitor reflect the narrow window for a business case in a potentially lucrative but niche market for the sturdy workhorse planes, and spillover from turmoil in the jet engine industry.
Pratt & Whitney Canada is the sole provider of engines for current turboprops, which are used for short regional routes.
General Electric has declined to participate in the project, leaving Pratt & Whitney Canada or Rolls-Royce as potential suppliers, both of which are tackling wider problems.
Recently appointed CEO Tufan Erginbilgic has said Rolls is a “burning platform” which needs to improve cash and cut debt. Pratt has said it is actively engaged in its jet engine problems. Neither company was immediately available for comment.
Embraer initially planned to spend $1.4 billion to develop a turboprop by re-using an existing fuselage design, but the low-cost approach failed to guarantee the efficiency gains needed to capture enough sales to justify the investment, executives said.
Chief Financial Officer Antonio Carlos Garcia said Embraer would need a partner for a more ambitious but costlier design.
The company has repeatedly said it is looking for an industrial or financial partner for a potential turboprop after a broader tie-up with Boeing collapsed in 2020.
(Reporting by Tim Hepher; editing by Jan Harvey, Jason Neely and Susan Fenton)