Embraer Turns 50 – A Look Back At The Manufacturer’s History

Brazilian planemaker Embraer has just celebrated its 50th Birthday. Here is a quick look at its long history and how it became the powerhouse it is today.

Embraer E2 family
The Embraer E2 family. Photo: Embraer

Humble beginnings

In 1969, the Brazilian government decided to invest in the new industry of aviation manufacturing. They founded a company called Empresa Brasileira de Aeronáutica (Embraer) that would not only develop civilian projects but also work on military contracts.

Their first aircraft was the Embraer EMB 110 Bandeirante, a 20 seater turboprop aircraft that could be used by the government or commercial businesses to serve the various small settlements around Brazil. In fact, the company would remain entirely domestic until at least 1975, where it released its first internationally major popular aircraft product, the Embraer EMB 120 Brasilia.

An Embraer EMB 120. Photo: Wikimedia

This aircraft could carry 30 passengers to a range of 1,750 km (945 nmi, 1,088 mi). 354 of this type would be built.

Expansion into regional airliners

With the success of the last two aircraft under its belt, Embraer moved onto the regional airliner market. At the 1989 Paris Air Show, it showed the world the ERJ145 (ERJ standing for Embraer Regional Jet). Using the same stretched fuselage of the EMB 120, the ERJ145 could accommodate 50 passengers but fly up to a range of 2,000 nmi depending on the variant. However, it had to make a compromise on the design and attach the engines to the tail rather than under the wing.

The ERJ family was very popular, with Embraer selling 1,213 ERJ aircraft until 2016.

An early Embraer EMB 145LR in American Airlines livery. Photo: Wikimedia


On December 4th, 1997, Embraer was privatized and sold away to the share market (although would not be openly traded until 2000). The Brazilian government would retain veto power over company actions (as it still was one of the biggest military contracts) through a series of golden shares.

With a slew of new capital and experience from its successful ERJ program, Embraer decided to enter the larger aircraft market with its E-Jet designs. These aircraft could carry 72 passengers on the smaller E170 and 116 passengers on the bigger E195. As these were fresh designs and not derivatives on the EMB 120 like the ERJ, it could actually mount the new engines under the wings.

These new aircraft filled a niche for airlines who needed regional services but didn’t want to buy the same capacity but far more expensive Airbus A318 / A319 or Boeing 737-600.

This line would again be the most popular Embraer aircraft to date, with over 1,500 built and flying around the world. Embraer would capitalize on this success and develop a new generation of regional aircraft, the E-Jet E2.

Photo: Simple Flying
The new Embraer E2 aircraft was on tour in Paris. Photo: Simple Flying

The new partnership with Boeing

A twist ending for Embraer has been the sudden partnership with Boeing. Embraer announced that Boeing would be purchasing an 80% stake in Embraer’s commercial aviation section, and the company would be rebranded to Boeing Brasil-Commercial.

Embraer still exists today as a manufacturer of military and civilian aircraft in everything but name, with its products still rocking the playfield and putting Airbus’ A220 range on notice.

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