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The only thing Americans like less than turboprop aircraft are 50-seat regional aircraft. Naturally, it’s the next airplane Embraer wants to build. Earlier in August, Embraer unveiled a radical change to the design of its turboprop concept — shifting the engines to the rear fuselage — with an eye toward rethinking the turboprop experience for reticent American travelers.

With this pivot to North America, Embraer’s turboprop will be the first large commercial aircraft re-imagined for the post-COVID world, recognizing both the uneven landscape of the pandemic’s recovery and the broader U.S. population trends. U.S. domestic travel, the largest market for regional aircraft operations on the planet, is now seen as fertile ground for replacing aging inefficient and uncomfortable 50-seaters and even supplementing the larger regional jet fleet.

Read: An unexpected competitive box awaits Embraer’s E3 turboprop

“After this crisis period when no one wanted to see us during the pandemic — for obvious reasons — the U.S. is one market that was showing signs of recovery first…So we had the opportunity to restart talking to airlines again. And we had a change in the acceptance of the turboprop as a viable option for the U.S. market,” said Rodrigo Silva e Souza, Embraer’s Vice President Marketing for its commercial aviation unit, in part of a wide ranging interview with The Air Current on what is increasingly likely to be the Brazilian plane maker’s next clean-sheet commercial aircraft program.

“We are working to, of course, to launch as soon as possible,” he said, still aiming to deliver in 2027 or 2028. It would be the first completely new large western turboprop design in four decades and the first of its kind with rear mounted engines.

Read: Embraer wants a turboprop, but needs a partner to let it be itself

Fundamentally, even with this new shape, Embraer’s tentatively designated TPNG 70 and TPNG 90 (Turboprop Next Generation) haven’t changed in their overall mission. The aircraft is still a 70 to 90-seat turboprop with a range “a little bit more than 800 nautical miles” but optimized for flights between 250 and 300 nautical miles and flown at speeds “faster than an ATR, but not as fast as the Dash 8-400,” said Silva e Souza, putting its cruising speed between 300 and 360 knots. Embraer’s goal is a 15% to 20% improvement in cash operating costs for its bigger TPNG 90 compared to the ATR 72-600.

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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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