I have to admit that it is not always easy keeping up with all aspects of the airline business. I knew Embraer was in process of upgrading their E-Jet family (called E2, as it’s the second generation), but I wasn’t sure what that really meant (I am sure LED lighting might have been involved). So, when I received an invite to fly on down to Florida to meet some executives, learn about the program, and take a flight on their E190-E2, how could I refuse? (spoiler: I didn’t!)
It was a quick trip (what I like to call a “turn and burn”). I would hop on a plane (737) on Tuesday morning, head from one corner of the U.S. to the other (I like to call that a “diagcon”), get some sleep (I got about four hours), get up the next day to fly on the E-Jet, and then get on another diagcon to be home by 11pm on Wednesday. Hey, I have done worse, and this trip was more than worth it!
Before this trip, I had flown on an Air Canada E190 in first class, a Jetblue E190 in economy and most recently on an Alaska Airlines (Skywest) E175 in economy. Although my experience has been limited, I can say with no question I love the aircraft. Here you have a plane that takes roller bags, feels spacious, and has 2-2 seating. You know what 2-2 seating means? No middle seats! That should be their slogan “no middle seats here” — slap it on the side of the plane and they will sell.
The night before the flight, a few media and Embraer folks went out to dinner, which is pretty standard. This gives you a chance to get to know people, and maybe ask some more laid back questions that aren’t in a formal setting. In the middle of dinner I sort of stopped my conversation and asked “wait a second, can someone ride in the flight deck jump seat during takeoff?” And without taking a breath, continued with “If so, I call dibs.” The PR folks started smiling and said they were just waiting for someone to ask. Oh yea… I was for sure giddy.
After getting back to the hotel room pretty late that night, I got things prepped for the next day, and hung out on the balcony to watch some lightning storms go by in the distance. With the shark plane flight the next day, I was a little worried of bad weather and possible tornados (yea, yea tornados are over land, but I had to try to make a Sharknado joke somewhere in this story and this is the best I got).
The next morning, we all met in the lobby and headed over to the Embraer facility at FLL. We were greeted with a nice breakfast spread and told to pick our seats. Of course I chose the one in the center for the best viewing of the presentation. Or maybe it was because it was right in front of the large E190-E2 model. Let’s go with both.
We were first given a presentation by the President of Embraer Aircraft Holding, Inc. Gary Spulak. He went over how much of a presence his company has in the U.S. and their positive impact on the economy. He talked about their offices, part suppliers, facilities, partners, and investors. All good stuff. The one name he did not mention in his 30-minute presentation was Boeing, and that shocked me. If you missed it, Boeing and Embraer have said they might, maybe, plan to, but will not confirm a $4.8 billion relationship that would result in Boeing owning 80% of Embraer’s commercial division.
This is huge. So when he asked “does anyone have any questions,” my hand shot up like the kid in the class that knows all the answers (but I don’t know the answers, so that is why I am asking) and I pointed it out to him. I received a “no comment.” He followed it up by saying they have nothing more to say than what has already been released. I reached out to Boeing and got nothing. Sure, I get it, but bummer. So much to ask. So much curiosity. So guess I need to wait.
Then we had Rodrigo Silva E Souza, the vice president of marketing at Embraer, who talked about the changes between the E1s (first generation E-Jets) and the new E2s. I feel that I knew the updates, but after the presentation I think I realized I didn’t fully know. It is still the E-Jet that you know and, maybe, love, but has some of the classical upgrades you have come to expect: improved avionics, updated bins, larger windows, updated engine, 4th-generation fly-by-wire, upgraded range, reduced cabin noise, and planned profitability for the airlines. Hence the “Profit Hunter” moniker seen on the nose of the aircraft.
They also tout a 10% lower fuel burn compared to the Airbus A220 (formally known as the Bombardier C-Series). I love these sorts of comparisons. Let’s take numbers for an aircraft barely on the market and compare it to another aircraft that is barely on the market. I don’t blame them, it is a constant game. During the presentation, the E-Jet family was compared to the Airbus A319, Boeing 737-700, MRJ, CRJ family, and of course the A220. I sort of got the “bring it on” impression. They also shared case studies on how airlines like Spirit and United could make use of the plane. I am guessing they didn’t just get that data for us. After our visit, the airplane is going to be doing a tour around the U.S. (first stop was Seattle, but no comment from Alaska on the future purchase of the airplane).
When the presentation part wrapped up, it was time to head outside into the humid heat of Florida. I live in Seattle for a reason — I don’t handle this sort of climate well. But I totally felt nothing the second I saw the aircraft with that beautiful shark nose. How can you not love this thing? Or fear it?
We were running a bit behind schedule, so we loaded on up and I stayed close to the front waiting to get all strapped in. I have been so very lucky to sit in the jump seat two previous times, both in 737s (in a Boeing Business Jet and also in 737-500 that Gogo used to own). Not to mention I have flown right seat in many smaller aircraft throughout the years.
Once my seat was slid into place, I sat down and tried to figure out the seatbelt. It took a bit, but finally got it (five-point harness). I can say that the leg room for the E-Jet jump seat isn’t as spacious as the 737. Personally I could have had my knees in my face, and I wouldn’t have cared. As always in these situations, I didn’t ask questions and obviously didn’t touch anything. The pilots were going through all their checklists and I was just getting giddy.
I have to apologize (more like #sorrynotsorry), but I didn’t get video. With my other jump seat experience, I spent so much effort trying to get video, take photos on my phone, take photos on the camera, etc., that I didn’t get to truly enjoy the experience. I still took some photos, but it was nice to actually enjoy the moment!
When we go to the end of the taxiway and were waiting to be given the green light to line up on the runway, I noticed the pilot pulled back on something. On closer inspection, it was an e-brake and looked like one you would find in many cars. I had to think back and I did not remember any other aircraft having a brake quite like it (let me know in the comments if there are any).
Then it was time. Time for takeoff. There wasn’t much spooling. Just GO! You cannot beat it. Doesn’t matter how great a takeoff might feel in the back of the plane, it is a totally different experience up front. Not just the views out the front windscreen, but also watching the dance of the pilot’s hands and avionics as we get to altitude.
Up to this point the pilots had not said but maybe one or two words to me (they were busy doing their jobs). However, the captain hit the auto-pilot button, turned to me with a smile, and said we are set. Then I was able to start asking questions, like a kid flying for the first time. “What does that do? What does that light mean? Can you see planes on that screen?” I find that pilots really enjoy when people have a genuine interest in what they do.
I wanted to stay up there all flight, but figured I should probably be kind to my peers. So with some grace (i.e. I didn’t fall), I was able to get out of the jump seat and head to the back of the aircraft to spend the rest of my journey.
The cabin is like the old E-Jet went on a few dates on the Boeing Sky Interior and some of its positive attributes rubbed off. You have your larger overhead bins that will allow every passenger to bring on a roller bag. You have your LED lights that can change to different colors to give the sense of space or to throw a party mid-flight. It just has a positive energy and feels more spacious. By no means is it an insult to say that it is very similar to the Sky Interior — I think Boeing has done a great job with it and it makes a huge difference on the 737.
It was also quieter. Those Pratt and Whitney engines still had a nice purr that an AvGeek could enjoy, but are quieter to allow one to talk more easily in the cabin.
Unfortunately after looping down by Key West, the flight wrapped up in about an hour and we made our way back to FLL to land. I had lunch, I headed to the airport, and then back on another 737 home to Seattle.
Let’s remove the beaches, the jump seat, the good people. The bottom line, is this is a great plane to fly in. I have been on a few A220s, but not flown in one yet. I am impressed with the cabin for many of the same reasons I am impressed with the E2. I think it pretty cool that the A220 makes the middle seat a bit wider, but you know what’s better? Not having one.
I feel the same way that I did when I last flew the E-Jet — I would rather fly it vs. the A320/B737 family. That 2-2 layout, the quick boarding, and the large windows are an attractive combination. Add on the extras of the E2 and you have a winner. I just look forward to seeing how a “potential relationship” between Boeing and Embraer might impact the future of the E-Jet. And of course, who doesn’t love a little AvGeek speculation on what they might call the E-Jet, if they decide to change the name. B212? B818? B616? E717?
Note: Embraer paid for my flights, all-too-short lodging, and food, although all these opinions (snarky or not) are mine.