The Embraer ERJ series is a popular family of regional jets that sees service all over the world. The family has also had several military derivatives among its 1,231 production examples. However, did you know that, despite being a Brazilian company, some of Embraer’s ERJ145s (the family’s largest variant) were produced in China? Let’s take a look at the manufacturer’s former involvement with the Harbin Aircraft Industry Group (HAIG).
The ERJ145 in a nutshell
Embraer launched its EMB 120 ‘Brasilia’ turboprop in the mid-1980s. However, by the end of the decade, it wanted something more. This led it to launch the ERJ145, a turbofan-powered stretch of its existing commuter aircraft, which it unveiled in 1989. It would have a capacity in the region of 50 seats, compared to the EMB 120’s 30 passengers.
The ERJ145 retained the EMB 120’s three-abreast seating configuration. The 29.87-meter long plane first flew in August 1995, and received its type certificate in December 1996. Its eventual introduction into revenue-earning service followed in April 1997. One of the family’s main competitors is the Canadian-built Bombardier CRJ series.
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Within two years, Embraer has launched two shorter versions of the aircraft, the smallest of which was the ERJ135. This model is 26.33 meters long, and typically has 37 seats. Meanwhile, the mid-sized ERJ140 is 28.45 meters long, and with a 44-seat cabin. All three models feature swept wings that have a total span of 20.04 meters in width.
What is the Harbin Aircraft Industry Group?
For 13 years, Embraer produced some of its ERJ145s in China. This was the result of a joint venture with the Harbin Aircraft Industry Group (HAIG). This company came into being 69 years ago, in 1952. Its aim at the time was to produce airliners for the Chinese domestic market. It takes its name from the city of Harbin, in Heilongjiang Province.
The aircraft that it produced were generally licensed copies of Soviet planes, with both military and commercial designs shared. For example, its H-5 light bomber was a copy of Ilyushin’s Il-28. However, production was limited, with just over 300 H-5s built compared to more than 6,000 Il-28s. Some of its designs were its own, like the Y-11 utility plane.
13 years of Chinese production
While seemingly unrelated at first glance, the two worlds of the ERJ145 and the Harbin Aircraft Industry Group collided in 2003. This was when Embraer established a joint-venture company with the Chinese manufacturer, known as the Harbin Embraer Aircraft Industry. This represented the start of a 13-year spell of Chinese ERJ145 production.
Harbin assembled examples of the ERJ145 for Chinese carriers, although the parts were shipped in from Embraer’s facilities elsewhere in the world. In total, the partnership resulted in the production of over 40 ERJ145s in China, as well as five Embraer Legacy 650s. The legacy is a business jet variant of Embraer’s existing ERJ family.
The joint venture eventually came to an end in March 2016, after 13 years of Chinese ERJ145 production. The last delivery of a Harbin-built ERJ145 took place in March that year. Four years later, in 2020, the production of the ERJ series ended altogether. Many examples remain active in both military and commercial service with regional carriers worldwide.
Did you know about the Harbin Aircraft Industry Group’s involvement with Embraer? Have you ever flown on an ERJ145? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.