LOT Polish Airlines Embraer E170 SP-LDA

20 years ago, Embraer checkmated Bombardier with the E-Jet family

On March 17, 2004, the first E170 regional jet entered service with LOT Polish Airlines, the first of almost 1,800 aircraft delivered since then.

On Sunday, a milestone for commercial aviation completed two decades, the first flight with passengers on an Embraer E-Jet.

On March 17, 2004, an E170 aircraft, the smallest of the family jets, took off on a LOT Polish Airlines flight, starting a revolution in the regional aviation market.

Until then, air travel between smaller cities were made by jets derived from executive planes or slow turboprops, not to mention some initiatives that did not have great results such as the Fokker 28 and the BAe 146.

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The E-Jets were therefore the first regional jets designed from scratch to be hugely successful. The story of the aircraft that elevated Embraer to the third largest manufacturer of commercial jets in the world, displacing rival Bombardier, began much earlier, in 1997.

The E-Jet family (Embraer)

That year, the Brazilian company revealed that it planned to launch the EMB 170, a regional jet for 70 passengers. Two years later, Embraer unveiled the ERJ-170 and ERJ-190, aircraft with a larger diameter fuselage, capable of accommodating rows of four seats.

Instead of the configuration common in regional aviation with engines in the T-tail, the E-Jets resembled the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320, with GE CF34 engines under the wings.

Cross section comparison between the E170 and the CRJ (Embraer)

Canadair Regional Jet

At the time, Embraer had the ERJ family, which had been launched in the 90s based on the EMB-120 Brasilia turboprop. With up to 50 seats, it was a very efficient aircraft, but it was no longer capable of being expanded.

Canadair, which had moved on from the Challenger executive jet to launch the Regional Jet, did better thanks to the wider fuselage, capable of accommodating four seats per row.

As a result, the jet, later renamed the CRJ100 and CRJ200, gained longer variants, the CRJ700, the CRJ900 and the CRJ1000.

Despite being able to carry up to 104 passengers, the jets later taken over by Bombardier were no match for the E-Jets, which offered more comfort, space and a voluminous hold below the cabin.

A Delta E175 and the rival CRJ in the background (risingthermals)

Scope clause

Embraer’s new family of regional jets soon gained two more members, the E195, for up to 120 passengers, and the E175, the most successful of them thanks to the scope clause of US airlines.

The limitation to carry up to 76 passengers and a maximum takeoff weight of 86,000 pounds made the E175 the ideal aircraft for regional routes in North America.

Even with more than 900 aircraft sold from the CRJ700 to CRJ1000 series, Bombardier recognized that its product suffered from the same limitations as Embraer’s ERJs.

The CS300 became the Airbus A220 (Gilbert Hechema)

C Series

It was necessary to take a step forward, with a better and bigger project than the E-Jets and that is what the Canadian company did with the C Series, a wider, more modern commercial jet with impressive performance.

However, the high cost of the program ended up bringing Bombardier to its knees. In 2018, the company sold the C Series to Airbus, which renamed it the A220.

After ending CRJ production in 2020 and selling ownership rights to Mitsubishi, Bombardier left Embraer alone in the regional jet market.

E195-E2 Tech Eagle (Embraer)

It is no surprise that the E175s are still popular in the United States, as shown by the recent order for 90 planes from American Airlines.

Twenty years after the LOT flight, Embraer has already delivered almost 1,800 of the family’s aircraft, including the new generation E1 and E2.

By December 2023, 753 E175s, 568 E190s, 191 E170s, 172 E195s, 89 E195-E2s and 19 E190-E2s had been delivered, according to data from Embraer. Quite an achievement for the Brazilian company.