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Embraer notches 1st sale for E-Jet freighter conversions

Brazilian aviation company targets regional cargo niche

Embraer plans to start delivering the first E-Jet converted freighters in 2024.

Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer has received its first firm order for up to 10 conversions of the E190/E195 passenger jet to a freighter from an undisclosed customer, underscoring the continued strong demand for all-cargo aircraft of all sizes even as the global economy begins to cool down.

Aircraft for conversion will come from the customer’s current E-Jet fleet. Deliveries are scheduled to begin in 2024, Embraer said in a news release Friday.

In early May, Nordic Aviation Capital, a leasing company that specializes in regional aircraft, signed a nonbinding letter of intent for retrofits on up to 10 E190/195s. 

E190s and E195s are small narrowbody aircraft that fall between the standard Boeing 737 and large turboprops. Embraer says the E190F will have a payload of 23,600 pounds, while the E195F will carry up to 27,100 pounds. 

Embraer launched the E-Jet conversion program in early March as a modern, fuel-efficient, less-polluting replacement for aging freighters in its size class, such as the MD-80 and CRJ200. It also has the potential to fit a niche within express carrier networks, covering short, regional routes on a daily basis. Embraer says E-Jet freighters will have 50% more volume capacity and three times the range of large cargo turboprops and up to 30% lower operating costs than older 737 converted freighters. It’s not clear if the cost comparison applies to the 737-800, the newest version of the 737 to be reconfigured for dedicated cargo use.

One potential drawback for the E190/195 is that the fuselage’s unique diameter prevents it from carrying standard-size containers that are interchangeable with other aircraft. Instead, the plane will likely require 88-inch-by-108-inch containers or pallets. 

Embraer projects a market of about 700 aircraft that could be retrofitted for dedicated cargo operation over the next 20 years. It says there are a number of 10- to 15-year-old E190/195 aircraft that are already good candidates for cargo transformation.

Passenger-to-freighter conversions require extensive alterations, including removal of seats, the addition of a wider cargo door on the main deck, a reinforced floor to handle heavy containers, a rigid barrier in front of the cockpit, a smoke detection system and a cargo handling system to maneuver containers on and off the aircraft.

The market for freighter conversions has mushroomed during the past three years because of strong growth in trade and e-commerce, combined with decreased flying by passenger airlines and less expensive used aircraft as airlines downsize or switch to more fuel-efficient aircraft for their passenger business.

Embraer will carry out the reconfigurations at its facilities in Brazil.

Click here for more FreightWaves/American Shipper stories by Eric Kulisch.


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Eric Kulisch

Eric is the Supply Chain and Air Cargo Editor at FreightWaves. An award-winning business journalist with extensive experience covering the logistics sector, Eric spent nearly two years as the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Automotive News, where he focused on regulatory and policy issues surrounding autonomous vehicles, mobility, fuel economy and safety. He has won two regional Gold Medals and a Silver Medal from the American Society of Business Publication Editors for government and trade coverage, and news analysis. He was voted best for feature writing and commentary in the Trade/Newsletter category by the D.C. Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. In December 2022, he was voted runner up for Air Cargo Journalist by the Seahorse Freight Association. As associate editor at American Shipper Magazine for more than a decade, he wrote about trade, freight transportation and supply chains. Eric is based in Portland, Oregon. He can be reached for comments and tips at [email protected]