No One Solution: Embraer’s CEO On Zero Emission Flight

In the race to net-zero, aviation is going to need all the solutions that become available, says Brazilian OEM Embraer’s Chief Executive Arjan Meijer. While everyone in the value chain is pointing at each other, asking when things will get done, environmental targets will only be reached through a collective effort across the board, the planemaker CEO believes.

Embraer’s CEO believes that change will happen the quickest in the regional segment but that it will take all the solutions available to reach industry sustainability targets. Photo: Embraer

Changes in the smaller segment first

One would have imagined that the unprecedented crisis of the past two years would have knocked the wind out of the aviation industry’s sustainability efforts in favor of short-term survival strategies.

However, nothing could be (for the most part) further from the truth. Airlines, startups, and OEMs are all developing – both in collaboration and competition – and investing in emerging technology set to move the industry closer to decarbonization.

The growing consensus from IATA and other actors is that it is going to take a portfolio approach to get there. However, there seems to be some disagreement as to who in the value chain needs to be the first to offer up the goods – be that cash for R&D, new propulsion technology, infrastructure, or sustainable aviation fuel.

“Everyone is pointing at each other but it is a collective effort, I would say. (…) Embraer is in the segment where change will happen first,” said Arjan Meijer, the Brazilian aircraft manufacturer’s CEO, during the EUROCONTROL Sustainability Summit in Brussels last month.

No One Solution: Embraer’s CEO On Zero Emission Flight
Embraer is working on a multitude of propulsion concepts through its Energia family. Photo: Embraer

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Conversation starter concepts

Mr Meijer further added that Embraer had introduced the Energia family concept aircraft to invite partners around the globe but also customers to talk about how aviation can develop in the smaller segments. SAF may be a good interim solution for longer routes, but regional aviation will need to find other solutions to get to net-zero by 2050.

Embraer is undoubtedly throwing the net quite wide when it comes to propulsion architecture. Airbus is mainly focused on hydrogen through its ZEROe program, whereas competitor Boeing believes that the properties of the gas make it unsuited to power aircraft. Meanwhile, Embraer has hybrid-electric, electric, hydrogen fuel-cell, and liquid hydrogen-powered planes in the works.

“In parallel, the ‘easier solution’ is SAF, whether its biofuel or synthetic fuels, but there is a huge logistic challenge. We are going to need all the solutions across the board to get to net-zero by 2050,” Meijer continued.

Embraer Eve eVTOL
EmbraerX’s EVE fully-electric urban mobility vehicle is scheduled to enter service in 2026. Photo: EmbraerX

Embraer is also working on its EVE eVTOL vehicle through its innovation branch EmbraerX. The manufacturer has entered into agreements with several actors across the globe, including Widerøe and Kenya Airways, for regional pilot projects.

Where do you think the most substantial shifts will happen, and when? Leave a comment below and join the conversation on one of aviation’s greatest challenges to date.