Why Embraer’s New Turboprop Has Its Engines At The Back

It’s been more than a month since Embraer released its latest iteration of its highly anticipated new turboprop product. Set to be officially launched at some point next year, with a targeted entry into service date of 2027, the latest renderings of the aircraft had some curious alterations over previous illustrations.

new embraer turboprop
The Embraer Turboprop has engines at the back, but why? Photo: Embraer

Notably, the engines have moved from their expected position under the wings to be situated either side of the aircraft’s rear fuselage. This was clearly a deliberate decision by the design team working on this project, but why? Simple Flying caught up with Embraer’s Vice President of Marketing and Strategy, Rodrigo Silva e Souza, to uncover the reasons behind this design choice.

A better passenger experience

Embraer faces some key challenges when it comes to bringing a new turboprop to the market. Notably, passengers are well known to largely despise the experience of flying on a turboprop, given their reputation for being noisy, uncomfortable and lacking in bin space.

To reinvent the experience, Embraer is taking the fuselage of the popular E-Jet as the foundation for the turboprop. This means it will instantly embrace everything good about the regional jets, from the 2-2 layout and generous personal space to the larger, accommodating overhead bins. But that doesn’t solve the issue of the noise and vibration.

Making the cabin quieter and more comfortable meant thinking again about where the engines are sited, as Rodrigo Silva e Souza, Embraer’s Vice President of Marketing and Strategy, explained,

“We realized that if we put the engines at the back, we would reduce the noise significantly. In fact, the noise levels that we get in our simulations are basically the same that we have in our jets today.”

Helvetic first E2 flight to LCY
The turboprop will use the same fuselage as the popular E2. Photo: Andrew Baker | Helvetic Airways

The E2 jets are well known for being exceptionally quiet, both from the ground and inside the cabin. To create a turboprop with jet-like quiet in the cabin is going to be a huge win for Embraer, and an impressive achievement. But that was not the only reason for relocating the powerplants. Rodrigo explained,

“The second reason to have the engines in the back is that it brings a much more modern look into the to the airplane, making it something a bit different. The passengers will realize that they will not be flying in those old, uncomfortable, and perhaps not very reliable airplanes, but in our new, modern, efficient, and more environmentally friendly airplane.”

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While passenger comfort and perception are clearly important, there is another, equally interesting reason to locate the engines at the back. It’s all about future-proofing the aircraft, as Silva e Souza explained,

“The other key reason to have the engines in the back is the evolution of this platform in the future. We are fully committed to integrate new propulsion system technologies as soon as they are available; as soon as the new technologies are mature in the market. For this size of plane, we understand that the future will be hydrogen powered aircraft. And when we think about a version of this product powered by hydrogen, the best configuration would be to have the hydrogen tank closer to the engine.”

Universal Hydrogen
Hydrogen is best stored in spherical or cylindrical tanks, unlike jet fuel. Photo: Universal Hydrogen

Having the fuel source close to the engines is a given, which is part of the reason modern jets store fuel in a tank that is integrated into the wing, close to the engines. But wouldn’t it be simpler to have hydrogen accommodated in a wing tank, just like jet fuel? According to Silva e Souza, that’s just not possible,

“The hydrogen tank is very different from the current tanks that we have on the wings. Hydrogen is better accommodated in a spherical shaped tank. You cannot have such a tank in a wing form, so we had to put it in the fuselage. The best place to do this was to put the hydrogen tank in the fuselage behind the passenger cabin.”

So Embraer is creating a turboprop that is not only going to shake up passenger perception of this aircraft type, but also one that will be easy to modify to take hydrogen in the future. Having the engines at the back also adds more airport gate compatibility, something that was surely on Embraer’s mind too. Overall, it’s an exciting development for the Brazilian planemaker, and one which will undoubtedly see a solid level of uptake when it’s officially launched next year.