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In the age of environmental, social and governance priorities that dominate corporate strategic communications, building an aircraft that runs on today’s jet fuel looks like a step in the wrong direction, but Embraer is trying to bridge to a future where low-carbon flying is achievable — eventually.

Within Embraer’s recently revised turboprop design are some key long-term assumptions about the greening of aviation and the readiness and availability of significantly lower carbon propulsion.

Embraer is betting on all horses. Both its Eve eVTOL and military short-takeoff utility transport concepts are electric and hybrid electric, respectively. As for larger commercial aircraft, said Silva e Souza, Embraer’s commercial airplane marketing vice president, “The answer is that [electric and hybrid electric] are really far away for a 90-seater turboprop. Our conclusion is that hydrogen would be the final way for this size of aircraft.”

Related: Embraer makes its case for an American turboprop

If the future is hydrogen-powered for large commercial aircraft, the path to getting there will be decidedly uneven. In the short term, Embraer’s design goal is to make a turboprop with traditional engines capable of running on 100% sustainable aviation fuels and appeal to reticent U.S. airlines.

Longer-term, said Silva e Souza, “We are designing an aircraft that we are thinking: Are we sure that 30 years from now it will be a hydrogen airplane? We don’t know, but in our best view today, we are designing an aircraft that is able to more easily accommodate the introduction of new technologies.”

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Jon Ostrower is Editor-in-chief of The Air Current. Prior to launching TAC in June 2018, Ostrower served as Aviation Editor for CNN Worldwide, guiding the network's global coverage of the business and operations of flying. Ostrower joined CNN in 2016 following four and half years at the Wall Street Journal. Based first in Chicago and then in Washington, D.C. he covered Boeing, aviation safety and the business of global aerospace. Before that, Ostrower was editor of the award-winning FlightBlogger for Flightglobal and Flight International Magazine covering the development of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and other new aircraft programs from 2007 to 2012. Ostrower, a Boston native, graduated from The George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs with a bachelor's degree in Political Communication. He is based in Seattle.

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