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SAO PAULOBrazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer is in talks with potential partners to develop a new regional turboprop aircraft. The planemaker also aims to opt for financial backing from investors.

In a bid to regain momentum after Boeing axed a $4 billion merger deal in April, the world’s third-largest planemaker is also pitching its E2 regional jet as a compact solution for carriers trying to reduce risk after the COVID-19 crisis.

“We are actively in discussions with (turboprop) partnerships, but I can’t go into more details now,” Commercial Aviation Chief Executive Arjan Meijer said in an interview.

“Also the type of partnership, be it industrial or financial, is wide open. We are looking at all the options, or it could be a combination of the two ... We are not ruling anyone out at this point,” he added.

Analysts say such a development could cost $2 billion.

Such a move could shake up a profitable niche dominated by Europe’s ATR, which before the crisis forecast 20-year demand for 3,020 turboprops worth $80 billion.

The turboprop segment is not new to Embraer. The company has admitted for some time to be prospecting the market, but in May CEO John Slattery denied that a project is about to be launched. In the executive’s view, it is worth waiting for the development of new technologies such as hybrid propulsion before reaching a final design.

Today, the worldwide passenger turboprop market is largely dominated by ATR launched a short take-off and landing version. De Havilland Canada, recreated to produce and market the old Q400, back under the Dash 8 designation, is another company that is expected to compete in the segment, as well as the German D0 328 turboprop.

For Embraer, once again competing in this market is symbolic because it was started by its first plane, the Bandeirante. Its most capable model, however, the EMB-120 Brasilia, had a modest career, with only 354 units produced in 18 years. Of these, an estimated 100 planes continue to fly regional routes around the world.

With a capacity of only 30 passengers, Brasilia did not keep up with the market evolution because Embraer preferred to launch the ERJ-145, its first 50-seat regional jet, which marked the beginning of the best phase of the Brazilian manufacturer in commercial aviation.#

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