The market for the E145 has not improved and while values have stabilized, these are at virtually scrap levels which should perhaps be of little surprise given the age of the type and change in market structure.
The hike in the price of fuel caused significant problems for the 50 seat regional jet over the course of the last decade after initially experiencing a surge in demand post 2001. With a fall in fuel prices it was hoped that the economics of the 50 seaters would once again work but the market structure in terms of scope clauses has seen a move to higher capacity aircraft.
Though entering service in 1996, the development of the ERJ145 can be traced back as far as 1989. This was the period when Canadair were in the process of developing the CRJ and when Dash 8, Fokker 50 and ATR42 turboprops were in their heyday. The suitability of the regional jet to the regional market at this stage was still very much a theoretical concept. Only from the mid to late 1990s was the regional jet to become proven as a viable economic vehicle for commuter operations.
Financial difficulties of Embraer caused a halt to development of the ERJ145 (then designated the EMB145) in the early 1990s. The Embraer product can carry the same 50 passengers as the CRJ200. When work on the project was restarted, the design was substantially changed, with wing mounted engines changed to a rear fuselage position. By the time the ERJ145 finally entered service in late 1996, the CRJ program had already been in service for four years. However, the four-year advantage of the CRJ was marred by the world recession and the continued dominance of the turboprop in commuter operations. Scope clauses also played their part in limiting demand. Despite the relatively late service entry of the ERJ145, the market for both the CRJ and ERJ was only just beginning to emerge.
Initially rejecting the idea of also developing a smaller version of the ERJ145, Embraer finally launched the ERJ135, a variant that competed against the 328JET. The ERJ140 entered service to offer a 44-seating capacity more matched to the needs of specific customers and competes against the CRJ440. A number of differing specifications exist for the ERJ145. The ER, Extended Range, version is the standard version with a Long Range (LR) also being available. The ERJ145LU refers to the Luxair specification developed to compensate for a higher 98kg passenger weight being specified by the JAA. With a higher passenger weight – 98kg versus 90kg – the amount of fuel that can be carried is compromised. The ERJ145LU therefore features a MTOW of 48,950lbs versus the 48,500lbs of the LR version. This issue of passenger weight is particularly critical for smaller aircraft. Luxair also opted for a Head Up Display to allow CAT III landings. HUDs are becoming increasing common such that in the coming years it may be viewed as a standard fit for appraisal purposes.
PGA, Regional Airlines and British Regional also opted for differing weights which created a differing designation. British Regional also developed in association with Embraer an 18-degree take-off flap setting for obstacle clearance. For the North American market, a plug door was developed to allow the aircraft to use jetways while for other markets the door opens downwards that also feature integral airstairs. A 48-seat layout can feature a larger galley capable of carrying 290kgs of instead of a 50-seat layout featuring only 160kg of catering. The difference in specification between North American and European aircraft can be sufficient to hinder free trade between the two regions. The European airlines usually specify additional items that can add $1 million to the base price of the aircraft. US airlines would be unwilling to pay extra for items that are of no interest and indeed may have to be removed. Conversely, European airlines may be less partial to US aircraft due to the expense of upgrading to achieve the desired specification.
Operating 50 seaters in Europe can be difficult due to disproportionately high landing and other charges. Operators are therefore forced to operate larger equipment, hence the increased enthusiasm for the new generation of larger regional jets. China became a source of demand for the ERJ145 where a joint venture, Harbin Embraer Aircraft Industry has secured orders from some domestic. The Chinese element is proving important to the ERJ145. Embraer allowed China to manufacture parts. Orders for the ERJ145 exhibited some volatility in the last few years before production outside China finally came to a close. Total orders for the ERJ135/140/145 numbered 890 of which 708 were for the ERJ145. Of the ERJ135/140/145 family 886 have been delivered including 704 for the ERJ145.
The demand for 50 seat regional jets in the period 2002-2005 enabled values of the ERJ145 to achieve a certain level of stability. This was at a time when there has been concern over the short-term prospects for larger jets due to still fragile economic and market specific conditions. The economics of the regional jets have been proven in an era of economic growth as well as recession, with major carriers in the U.S. having switched services to more efficient regional operators. In a period of sustained higher fuel prices and waning high yielding business passenger demand, the operating economics of the 50 seaters became exposed. Scope clauses in the U.S. are now easing sufficient to see an acceleration in demand for larger aircraft which offer improved operating economics. The era of the 50 seat regional jet has been in decline for a number of years.