What Happened To Embraer’s CBA 123 Vector Aircraft?

Earlier this week, we reported on why Embraer is no longer a state-run company. While researching these events, it was evident that the CBA 123 Vector program contributed heavily to the transition of the Brazilian manufacturer. So what was this aircraft? Let’s take a look.

Embraer-FMA CBA 123 Vector
Only two prototypes of the aircraft were built. Photo: Johnson Barros via Flickr

Joining forces

CBA 123 Vector was a project that brought the aircraft manufacturing industries of two South American powerhouses together. At the turn of, 1986 the Argentine Air Force recommended collaborating with Brazil’s industry to launch a turboprop that could perform like a jet. Thus, the leadership of both nations signed an agreement for Embraer and Argentina’s FMA/FAMA to manufacture the ambitious plane.

“The aircraft was originally called “Paraná” by the Argentinians and “Tapajós” by the Brazilians, but as the target was the international market, a globally pronounceable name was necessary,” Embraer shares on its website.

“Therefore, an international competition was launched, receiving more than six thousand suggestions. The name Vector was chosen.”

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High safety standards were going to be brought with the plane. Photo: Pedro Aragão via Wikimedia Commons

High hopes

The CBA 123 Vector had a length of 18.09 m (59 ft 4 in), a wingspan of 17.72 m (58 ft 2 in), and a height of 5.97 m (19 ft 7 in). With its small stature, the plane could fit just 19 passengers with two flight deck crew members.

Two Garrett TPF351-20A turboprops would help the aircraft reach a maximum cruising speed of Mach 0.50 (612 km/h). Meanwhile, it would have reached a range of up to 1,872 km (1,010 NM).

The CBA 123 performed its first flight on July 18th, 1990. Embraer was so proud that it even presented the plane at the United Kingdom’s Farnborough International Air Show later on that year.

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A different direction

Even though there was progress in the development of the plane, the price of introducing such an aircraft was too high at the time. With the systems needed to maintain the plane being in their infancy, the fees were notably too much. Each finished production would cost $5 million ($10m today), which was significant for the market during this period.

Embraer also notes the oil crisis adding to the pains of the industry. It adds that regional airlines were adopting new trends that focused on higher capacity models.

It wasn’t only too costly for the end purchaser. Embraer needed funds to keep the program going. However, it couldn’t expect any immediate cash injections from authorities as Brazilian president Collor de Mello was up against an impeachment saga. Subsequently, Embraer had little choice but to scrap the $300 million project in 1991.

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PT-ZVB in Rio de Janeiro’s Museu Aeroespacial (MUSAL) in 2006. PT-ZVE (Parana) has recently been sitting in Sao Jose Dos Campos. Photo: Marcio Sette via Wikimedia Commons

The project’s failure even led to Embraer steering further into a financial crisis, which ended up with the privatization of the company a few years later. Overall, despite the struggles during the early 1990s, Embraer managed to hold on and produce several successful regional jets that are loved by airlines across the globe.

What are your thoughts about the CBA 123 Vector program? Would you have liked to fly on the aircraft? Let us know what you think of the plane in the comment section.

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