• Tom Jordan

Congo Airways converts E175 orders to E190-E2

The Embraer E190-E2 as it will look in Congo Airways livery. Photo courtesy of Embraer

Since the Embraer E-Jet E2 family was first launched at the 2013 Paris Air Show, orders for the state-of-the art aircraft have been slow coming in, mostly due to issues with the aircraft's heavy weight compared to its predecessor the Embraer E-Jet, and the USA's strict scope clause regulations. However, today the order book for the type was given a small but welcome boost when Congo Airways, the flag carrier of the Democratic Republic of Congo, converted its existing order for two Embraer E175s to the larger and more modern Embraer E190-E2.

The history of the Embraer E-Jet dates back to the 1999 Paris Air Show, when the Brazilian manufacturer launched the 70-seat Embraer E170, after finding a market niche in-between narrow body sized jets such as the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320, and smaller turboprop aircraft like the ATR-72 and Bombardier Dash 8. The aircraft was a roaring success, and was soon followed by three stretched variants; the 78-seat E175, the 100-seat E190 and finally the 116-seat E195 which was large enough to compete with the smallest members of the Airbus and Boeing fleets. Each of the aircraft featured a very similar cockpit configuration and could be operated on a single-type rating by pilots and cabin crew.

However, the industry moved quickly towards more modern aircraft with higher-bypass turbofans and Embraer found themselves with the need to develop a successor to its successful E-Jet family. Hence in 2013 the Embraer E-Jet E2 was born featuring three different variants the E175-E2, E190-E2 and E195-E2, which like their predecessors can all be operated under a single type rating. But despite Embraer's best efforts to create a modern fly-by-wire aircraft for the market, orders have not been as forthcoming as the company hoped with only 151 orders placed since 2013 (compared to 642 for its direct competitor, the Airbus A220). The first E190-E2 aircraft was pushed into service in April 2018 with launch customer Winderoe and despite the lack of significant orders, has become a valuable and reliable member of several airlines fleets including Azul, Air Astana and Air Kiribati.

So it was with open arms today that Embraer negotiated the US$256 million deal to convert Congo Airways' existing order for two E175s to the larger and more modern E190-E2. The original order for the E175s was placed in December 2019, with the new E-Jets being touted as a replacement for Congo Airways' Dash 8 Q400 turboprops on regional routes with the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Desire Bantu, CEO of Congo Airways also proudly stated "These new jets will allow us to extend our operations within the Democratic Republic of Congo, and regionally to West, Central, and Southern Africa," whilst hinting that a further order for more E-Jet E2s is not off the cards and will be considered towards the end of the year.

Deliveries from Embraer to Congo Airways are scheduled to begin in the second quarter of 2022 and it was today revealed that the aircraft will be configured in a two-class, 96 seat configuration featuring 12 staggered business class seats and 84 economy class seats.

This order for the E2 from Congo Airways is the second order for the type in Africa, following the April 2019 order from Nigeria's Air Peace for 13 of the larger E195-E2 variant. According to Embraer there are currently 189 Embraer aircraft operating in Africa with 54 airlines in 27 countries. Embraer Vice President Sales, Africa and Middle East, Raul Villaron stating, "It’s great to welcome another airline to the E2 and the Embraer family of operators, especially in Africa where the demand for regional travel had been growing strongly before the current crisis. We look forward to supporting Congo Airways as they continue to upgrade their offering to their customers.”

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