The Embraer 170 and 175 are the two smallest members of the E-Jet family. Since their introduction in 2004, the E-Jets have dominated the regional market, displacing the equally popular Embraer RJ series that preceded them.
Most pilots I have spoken to with E-Jet experience fall into two categories: those who love flying E-Jets, and those who miss flying them. Who could blame the crews? The E170 and E175 have a fantastic avionics suite, outstanding reliability, and one of the most comfortable yoke designs in any airliner.
I remember my first E175 flight. After many bumpy odysseys aboard the EMB-110 with multiple stopovers or awkward short flights aboard the elegant but aging Boeing 727, the E-Jet felt like a spaceship. Seeing the E170 and E175 approach the end of their careers makes me feel old, but I am glad to have experienced their peak.
While other manufacturers failed to keep up with the E170 and E175, the two quickly became market rivals. Here is how they stack up against each other.
Bottom Line Up Front
The E170 and E175 are almost identical apart from the fuselage stretch. The E170 got off to a great start, but the additional passenger capacity made the E175 ultimately more appealing to most operators.
Sales of the Embraer 175 began outpacing the 170 around 2013, leading to over 800 units sold compared to 191 for the E170.
The Main Differences Between the Embraer 170 vs 175
- When Embraer first unveiled the E175, the difference between it and the E170 was a simple 5 ft 10 in along the fuselage. The change made room for up to two rows of seats in the Embraer 175, or ten passengers.
- The Embraer 170 was the 70-seat complement to the E190, which has 90 seats. Most airlines to place an order during the E-Jet launch in 2003 ordered a mix of these models.
- Embraer then introduced two stretched versions, branded the E175 and E195. These were meant to fill in the gaps in the original lineup, but the E175 would eventually outpace sales of all three models.
- Production of the E170 ended in 2017, while Embraer continues to accept E175 orders and has a sizeable backlog. The popularity of the stretched version skyrocketed in the United States after Embraer introduced a 70-seat floor option.
- The E170 was left out of the E-Jet E2 generation, but the E175 might suffer the same fate. The E175-E2 first flew in 2019, but the project has been frozen until 2027. There are no orders for the E175-E2 so far.
- Pending a miracle or yet another cataclysmic market change, I cannot see E175-E2 seeing the light of day in any significant capacity. Its angle was in the American regional market. The lack of progress in scope clause discussions has closed that door for it and the similar Mitsubishi SpaceJet MRJ90.
- Original small E-Jet option
- Maximum of 78 seats
- Typically flown with 66 to 70 seats
- 191 units produced until 2017
- Favorite among early adopters who ordered a mix of E170 and E190
- Longer fuselage by 5 ft 10 in
- Considerably longer takeoff run
- Seats up to 88 passengers but can be configured to fit 70 seats
- Best-selling E-Jet variant with 817 orders
- Currently sold in both E175 and E175-E2 variants
The E-Jet History and Evolution
From Turboprops to Jets
The Embraer E170 and E175 are the two smallest members of the E-Jet series. This family of regional airliners came up as a successor to the Embraer Regional Jet (ERJ). Experts believed the new models would perform well, but few could have foreseen how it outperformed its successful predecessor.
Before the ERJ, Embraer had quietly established itself as a serious player in the regional turboprop market. The company came to be during the development of the EMB-110 Bandeirante, a small utility turboprop introduced in the 1970s. Embraer sold 501 units of all variants.
Over 100 Bandeirantes found a home in the Brazilian Air Force. The rest went to various passenger and cargo airlines worldwide.
The success of the Bandeirante also highlighted some of its limitations, and in 1985 Embraer delivered the first EMB-120 Brasília.
The new turboprop airliner could haul more passengers or cargo faster and further than the Bandeirante could have dreamt of. Of 357 units delivered until 2001, 126 remained operational in 2018. The Brasília has become increasingly popular as a short-haul freight plane for remote areas worldwide.
Despite the success of the Bandeirante and the Brasília, the limitations of turboprop designs were obvious. As the turn of the century approached, Embraer executives chose to risk it all to break through in the convoluted jet market.
Embraer unveiled the EMB-145 in 1989 as a re-engined EMB-120 with a fuselage plug. The design then morphed into a swept-wing jet with engines mounted on the rear fuselage.
The design survived a convoluted development process and a series of economic crises that almost buried Embraer.
In April 1997, the first ERJ-145 entered service, flying for American carrier ExpressJet Airlines. Embraer’s first commercial jet family surpassed all expectations, selling 1231 units until production ended in 2020.
Enter the E-Jet
The development of the ERJ dragged on long enough for Embraer to unveil concrete plans for its successor. The new project came up in 1997 as the ERJ-170, with the last two digits coming from the passenger capacity.
Original plans to produce the aircraft as a joint venture with European manufacturers fell through, and in 1999 Embraer announced it was starting over alone. The Brazilian company initially planned two variants, the ERJ-170 and ERJ-190.
The ERJ-170 used the configuration introduced by the Boeing 737 in the 1960s, with a low-mounted wing with two podded engines and a traditional empennage. Unlike the ERJ-145, the new airliner stayed roughly the same from conception until delivery.
Embraer rebranded the new airliner family to the E-Jet E170 and E190. The first E170 flew in February 2002, but that same year the Brazilian company realized there was an untapped market between the 70 and 90-seat variants.
Embraer announced the E175, stretching the fuselage by 5ft 10in for a total of 103ft 11in. The 175 variant could seat between 76 and 88 seats, compared to 66 to 78 in the initial E170 design. The E170 and E175 share 95% of their components. All E-Jet airliners have 86% parts commonality between each other.
While the E-Jet design went smoothly, the type certification dragged on for a year longer than expected. LOT Polish Airlines became the first E170 operator in March 2004, while the E175 entered service in 2005 with Air Canada.
The market welcomed the E170 with open arms, but the E175 gradually overshadowed it. As of September 2022, Embraer had sold 817 E175 compared to 191 E170 units.
American airlines have been particularly enthusiastic about the smaller E-Jets, with Alaska Air Group placing a firm order for eight new aircraft as late as July 2022.
Mark Neely of Embraer Commercial Aviation called the E175 “the backbone of the US regional network” due to its 85% dominance in this segment.
The Beginning of the End
The Embraer E170 and E175 have dominated the American regional market since their introduction in 2004. The new realities facing airlines spell out the end of the original E-Jets.
The E170 exploded into the regional airline market, taking over feeder routes in the United States, even though the larger E190 proved more popular immediately.
The E170 was a tidy jet that fit the tight constraints of American scope clauses. Sales flowed in nicely, and for a while, it seemed like the E170 and the E175 would not get in each other’s way. Everything changed in 2012.
Orders for the E175 skyrocketed, with the tally rising from 198 to 375 within six months in 2013. The E170 still received some love, but it had become clear to Embraer that its days were numbered. The Brazilian company announced the next generation E-Jet E2 series at the Le Bourget air salon.
The E175, E190, and E195 would receive new models with the -E2 suffix, but Embraer left out the E170. After over a decade, the last of 191 Embraer E170 left the production line in 2017, closing one of the most successful chapters in Brazilian aviation.
At first glance, the future seemed bright for the Embraer E175. The E2 version expanded seating and range due to aerodynamic and avionics improvements. The new Pratt & Whitney Geared Turbofan is the centerpiece of the changes.
Embraer initially priced the E175-E2 at $46.8 million and banked on predicted scope clauses renegotiations that would allow heavier aircraft like the E175-E2 to make their way into the American regional market. The first order came during its launch year, with SkyWest requesting up to 100 aircraft.
The fortunes of the Embraer 175-E2 began to worsen in 2016. Scope clause discussions did not progress, leading to a one-year freeze in negotiations. Embraer reacted by pushing the projected introduction date to 2021. Development continued at Embraer, and the E175-E2 made its maiden flight in 2019.
Embraer then-CEO John Slattery predicted that the E2 versions of the E175, E190, and E195 would have similar sales numbers. In December 2019, the company aimed at a revised introduction date of Q3 2021. This would not come to pass.
The airline market suffered severely from the air travel restrictions related to the 2020 health crisis. Amidst the uncertainty, in August 2020, Embraer announced the introduction of the E175-E2 had been pushed to 2023.
The Brazilian manufacturer hoped the extra time would allow it to gauge the new market realities to better place its smallest second-generation jet.
In April 2021, Embraer CFO Antonio Garcia announced it would take an extra year for the E175-E2 to hit the market. With Delta and American scope clause negotiations stagnant, it had become clear the SkyWest order could not go ahead.
The regional airline provides services for major carriers and would not be able to operate the jet without them. The certification procedure continued nonetheless.
As 2022 rolled in, Embraer had a grand total of zero firm orders for the E175-E2 despite the aircraft being ready and boasting excellent performance for its price.
Following a meeting of its Board of Directors, the company announced in February that the program was on hold. MTU Aero Engines, the Pratt & Whitney development partner for the PW1715G geared turbofan intended for the E175-E2, also came out with a statement freezing the engine certification process.
The new E175 fell foul of maximum takeoff weight and seating restrictions in current mainline scope clauses, blocking it from the American market that embraced the E170 and E175.
The latest Embraer press release places the E175-E2 projected introduction around 2027, nearly a decade after the E190-E2 debut with Norwegian regional airline Widerøe.
The market was not kind to the Embraer E175-E2, but the delays were a blessing in disguise for the original E175. Airlines looking to expand turned to the trusty Embraer 175 to fill their needs, often as a replacement for the ERJ-145.
The Brazilian manufacturer adapted to scope clause realities and began offering conversions that made the E175 compliant with different segments. This change effectively allowed the aircraft to replace the E170 in the 51-70 seat bracket.
Between January 2013 and January 2023, E175 sales jumped from 198 to 817 units. This figure does not include options for additional aircraft, and Embraer has no immediate plans to end production of its bestseller.
The manufacturer still hopes the market will eventually welcome the E175-E2. Until then, airlines looking for an affordable and reliable jet can count on the good old Embraer 175.
Having high commonality was crucial to the Embraer E-Jet design goals. Even when engineers had envisioned only the E170 and E190, the aircraft shared 86% of their parts. When the stretched E175 and E195 derivatives came around, they boasted a commonality of 95% with the regular variants.
The level of similarity is such that on official documents, the E170 and E175 appear as the ERJ 170-100 and ERJ 170-200.
The aircraft uses a pair of General Electric CF34 high bypass turbofans. The E170 and E175 fly with the CF34-8E5 or CF34-8E5A1, with a thrust rating of 14200 lbf each.
The ERJ 170 derivatives have a low wing design with a conventional empennage. The Embraer 170 is 98 ft 1 in long, while the Embraer 175 stretches out to 103 ft 11 in. This is the most noticeable difference between the two aircraft. The fuselage extension allows the E175 to fit up to 88 passengers, compared to 78 in the E170.
The traditional configuration of the original model has 66 to 70 seats to comply with scope clauses. The E175 typically flies with 76 to 78 seats.
The standard E170 and E175 models are 32 ft 3 in tall, with a wingspan of 85 ft 4 in. The jets have a wing area of 783 sq ft. Some operators use the E175L variant, with longer, redesigned winglets for improved fuel economy. The new devices stretch the wingspan to 94 ft.
The maximum takeoff weight for the E170 is 21515 lbs, while the added seats increased it to 22289 lbs on the E175.
While the landing run is similar between both variants (4072 ft and 4137 ft), the added weight without engine upgrades makes the takeoff run significantly longer for the E175. The Embraer 170 requires 5394 ft of the runway, compared to 7362 ft for the 175.
The service ceiling for all E-Jet variants is 41000 ft, while the top speed clocks in at Mach 0.82. The typical cruise speed is Mach 0.75 for the E170 and E175.
At the maximum takeoff weight, the short variant has a range of 2150 nautical miles, compared to 2200 nmi with the 175. This figure assumes provisions for a 100 nmi divert plus standard mission reserves.
The most common E170 seating configuration is 70 seats. Carriers operating for Delta and United typically have three rows of first-class seats in a 1-2 arrangement, then four rows of premium economy seats, complemented by 14 regular ones.
American Airlines prefer a slightly different setup, with four first-class rows followed by five Main Cabin Extra and 12 regular economy rows.
Embraer 175 arrangements remain identical when flying with a 70-passenger configuration. With 76 seats, flights operated for all mainline carriers go for four first-class rows and four to six premium economy ones.
Let there be no delusions about the reality of regional flying. This will always be a far cry from the legroom and service common to intercontinental services. Still, E-Jet is a passenger favorite within its niche.
What Do Airlines Prefer?
Sales paint an accurate picture of the E170 versus E175 comparison. It is easy to argue for the smaller variant when accounting for scope clauses in the United States.
The Embraer 170 is perfect for the 51-70 seat segment. The limitations made it less attractive to airlines wishing to be flexible without a massive fleet, especially those outside the United States operating without American restrictions.
Most E170 operators outside of the United States were early adopters of the E-Jet family, like LOT Polish Airlines. A hallmark of these fleets is a balance between E170 and E190 units operational. After the E175 hit the market, it became increasingly common to see airlines operating it as the sole E-Jet type in their inventory.
The emergence of E175 conversions that allowed it to fly routes in the 51-70 seat segment revolutionized its market presence in the United States. Regional airlines providing services for mainline carriers built large E175 fleets that could cover all routes of interest.
The American market accounts for around three-fourths of Embraer 175 sales. Compass Airlines operated 56 E175 by the time it ceased operations in 2020.
The aircraft have found new homes at SkyWest, Republic, and Envoy since. The reliability and low operating costs have made it move much quicker than competitors in the second-hand market.
Question: What is the largest Embraer 170 and 175 operator in the world?
Answer: Republic Airways is the largest Embraer E-Jet operator in the world. Republic flies 62 Embraer 170 and 163 Embraer 175. This American regional airline flies for American Eagle, Delta Connection, and United Express.
Question: Why did Embraer not make an E170-E2?
Answer: Despite achieving early popularity, particularly in the United States, the Embraer 170 fell wayside compared to the E175. Embraer executives decided to exclude the smallest E-Jet member from the E-Jet E2 series. Changes in market realities would eventually bury the E175-E2 as well.
Despite the first prototype flying in December 2019, the company postponed the projected introduction until 2027. As of January 2023, there were no firm orders for the E175-E2.
Question: How did Airline Scope Clauses Affect the Development of the Embraer 170 and Embraer 175?
Answer: In the United States, airlines have limitations on how many regional aircraft a company may operate. The Embraer E170 fits neatly into the 51-76 seat block, while the E175 is in a gray area.
Despite having a higher maximum capacity, the scope clauses restrict the E175 to flying with 76 seats or fewer installed. In response, Embraer introduced the E175SC in 2017.
This option is available on new orders and as a refit or existing aircraft, lowering the maximum seating to 70 seats. Scope clauses also damaged the sales prospects of the E175-E2, as projected changes that would accommodate larger aircraft did not come through.
How big of a difference can a fuselage stretch make? As it turns out, a huge one. The Embraer 170 and 175 are so similar they could be twins, and while both started out great, the stretched E175 sold over five times better than the E170.
The E170 was revolutionary at its introduction. Mainline carriers worldwide found that a mixed E170 and E190 fleet was perfect for reducing costs on feeder routes. The limited seating made it inflexible, and that curbed its sales potential.
Initially, it seemed as if the E175 would keep up with the E170 sales, with plenty of commercial success but well behind the E190.
This took a sharp turn around 2013, after which Embraer received hundreds of orders for the model. Most of them came from the American regional market, which acquired even more E175 units after the Brazilian manufacturer introduced an option to restrict the jet to 70 seats.
Changing market realities and stagnant scope clause discussions have signaled what seems to be the end for the E170 and E175 unless the E175-E2 makes a miracle comeback after nearly a decade of delays. Since 2004, the E170 and E175 have dominated the regional market in ways no competitor could dream of.
Pilots love the E-Jets, and passengers have enjoyed many happy years in its spacious cabin. It has been a golden era for regional flying. It has been a golden era for regional flying, and I am happy to have experienced it.
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