Introduction and History
The Embraer RJ145 is the first of many jet airliners built by Brazilian aviation giants Embraer. Embraer unveiled its jetliner debut in 1989 under the designation EMB-145. If you fly between a smaller airport and an airline hub anywhere in the world, you have probably been aboard an Embraer Regional Jet aircraft.
Taking on the aviation landscape of the time was a brave move for what then was a small, creative company punching well above its weight. Embraer had made a name for itself in the regional turboprop market. The EMB-110 Bandeirante and the EMB-120 Brasília sold over 800 units combined, but the Brazilian company knew that jets were the big league.
Turboprops dominated the regional market in the 1970s and early 1980s due to the surge in fuel prices. With costs diminishing in the late 1980s, airlines trended towards regional jets due to their speeds.
European designers Fokker and Yakovlev had dominated the segment for small airliners capable of flying off short runways since the 1960s with the Yak-40 and Fokker F28. British Aerospace joined the fray in the 1980s with the BAe 146, a unique entry that used four engines instead of two.
Outside the regional segment, the short-haul market was unfriendly to new jet entries. The Boeing 737 Classic series, the McDonnell Douglas MD-80, and the brand-new Airbus A320 competed fiercely for the market share in the western world amidst the Cold War climate.
In non-aligned countries, they also faced off against the Tupolev Tu-154M and the Yakovlev Yak-42 from the Soviet Union. Against these overwhelming odds, Embraer launched the ERJ145 and paved the way to become the dominant name in the regional market.
Most of the flying I do today across Europe is aboard an ERJ or an E-Jet series. The ERJ145 is comfortable, looks good, and has an excellent safety record. What else can you ask from an airliner?
Bottom Line Up Front
The Embraer RJ145 is a revolutionary introduction to the regional jetliner world. The company sold 1213 airframes and established itself as the undisputed leader in the segment. In 2022, over 500 ERJ145 and derivatives are flying with civilian and military clients.
Embraer RJ145 / Specs
From the EMB-120 to the EMB-145
To keep the development cheap, the original concept for the EMB-145 drew heavy inspiration from the EMB-120. The design team at Embraer kept the aerodynamic configuration almost intact, with a high T-tail, almost straight wings, and mid-mounted turbofan engines. The fuselage was supposed to be 18 ft longer to accommodate more passengers.
The engine arrangement was highly unconventional for the 1980s and closely resembled that of the British Gloster Meteor jet fighter introduced during the Second World War.
Despite presenting the new aircraft project at the 1989 Paris Air Show, Embraer had yet to decide on an engine supplier. They opted for the new Allison GMA3007 in 1990, before engine flight tests had begun.
The EMB-145 hit a snag that same year due to economic difficulties in Brazil. The federal government announced budget cuts across the public sector, which forced Embraer to lay off a third of its employees. Without the necessary staff to continue, the company froze the EMB-145 development for half a year.
After weathering the crisis, Embraer returned to the EMB-145 project in 1991. The design team had reservations about the original wing and engine arrangement. The new wing design had a noticeable wing sweep of 22.3 degrees, Fowler flaps, and spoilers, putting it in line with the standards used by other jetliners.
The new wing carried engines in a podded arrangement, as sported by the 737 and Airbus 320. To ensure ground clearance, Embraer increased the length of the landing gear legs. This change would also make the aircraft tall enough to be compatible with the jetways in major airports.
Despite the troubles in 1990, American regional giant Comair had placed an order for 60 aircraft. The airline had been operating the EMB-110 and EMB-120 for two decades and felt Embraer products balanced costs and capabilities well. After the redesign, Embraer secured the intention for over 330 aircraft from different customers for $12 million per unit.
The scope of the changes affected the development timeline and cost. In 1989, Embraer had hoped to complete the EMB-145 project below $200 million, including marketing costs.
By the end of 1991, the figure had risen to $350 million on design and certification alone. The original goal of starting deliveries in 1992 was a far cry from reality. By then, Embraer had begun another redesign. According to the new schedule, the company hoped to get the aircraft in the air before the end of 1994.
To meet demands from airliners, the Embraer engineers moved the two engines to the rear fuselage. This arrangement was the most common in twin-engine T-tail airliners and had proven itself with the ubiquitous Douglas DC-9 and Tupolev Tu-134 series, plus their derivatives.
Embraer expanded seating to a maximum of 55 passengers in a single-class arrangement. The changes gave the new EMB-145 design a cruise speed of Mach 0.8.
Embraer blew their 1994 deadline for what had become the definitive Embraer RJ145 but solved a funding issue in the process. The Brazilian government privatized part of the company, holding a 20% share against 80% now owned by local and foreign investors.
The new design increased performance and costs, with each aircraft marketed for $14.5 million. This number would eventually rise to $15 million in 1996.
After plenty of delays, the Embraer RJ145 had its first flight in August 1995. The aircraft underwent an accelerated flight-testing phase, totaling 1300 hours by the time it achieved Federal Aviation Agency certification in December 1996.
Embraer secured 127 letters of intent plus 18 orders, with an option for another 16. The first delivery happened in April 1997. Embraer produced 1231 RJ145 and derivatives until 2020 when the last aircraft rolled out from the production line. I have spoken to family friends who worked at Embraer during its design phase.
They believed in the project from the beginning but never expected the ERJ145 to be such a hit that it would put Embraer on the same level as Boeing and Airbus in the airline market.
Regional operators love the ERJ as it is significantly cheaper than the Bombardier CRJ and even the Saab 2000 turboprop. The cost per flight hour of the Embraer RJ145 varies between approximately $757 and $1338 based on the variant and loadout.
The Embraer RJ145 requires a pilot and co-pilot to fly and can seat up to 55 passengers, though most airlines limit this number to 50. The aircraft has airstairs at the front of the fuselage, allowing boarding and deboarding to happen without airport support.
A unique feature of the Embraer Regional Jet line is that all types share a single type certificate, allowing companies to move pilots freely between their ERJ135, ERJ140, and ERJ145 units.
The standard Embraer RJ145 weighs 27758 lbs when empty. The ERJ145XR extended range variant has an MTOW of 53131 lbs compared to 48501 lbs in the baseline model. The aircraft has a useful payload of 13027 lbs.
The standard fuel capacity is 9919 lbs for the ERJ145LR and 13168 lbs for the ERJ145XR. The maximum permissible landing weight is 42549 lbs.
While the EMB-145 design changed over the years, Embraer stuck to its original engine. When the EMB-145 had made its maiden flight, Allison had become part of Rolls-Royce America and marketed the engine as the Rolls-Royce AE 3007.
This turbofan engine has a bypass ratio of 5-to-1. The AE 3007 has redundant FADEC (full authority digital engine control) systems that output data to the EICAS (engine-indicating and crew-alerting system) in one of the digital displays on the instrument panel.
The AE 3007A model that powers the ERJ 145 has a thrust rating of 7580 lbf on the base version and up to 8917 lbf for the uprated variants fitted to the ERJ145XR and other modifications of the aircraft.
The cockpit has a Honeywell Primus 1000 avionics suite. The instrument panel has five CRT displays, one in the center and two for each crew member. The Primus 1000 is a good complex for an airliner, but younger pilots will miss the modern comforts of newer Garmin suites.
I was surprised to learn the Embraer Regional Jet originally had no FMS. This feature was available both as a factory option and as a retrofit. However, the integration between the FMS and the autopilot is lacking. The ERJ145 cannot fly an automated VNAV transition, which increases the cockpit workload.
I know military EMB-145 pilots who do not mind this and enjoy the more hands-on experience, but some in the airline industry wish they had the option. Starting with the E-Jet series, Embraer replaced the Honeywell Primus 1000 with the much more advanced Primus Epic avionics suite.
The central screen shows the EICAS for the pilots, while the others act as a primary flight display and a multi-functional display. The ERJ145 cockpit has the unique M-shaped Embraer yoke introduced with the EMB-120 Brasília in the 1980s. I love the ergonomics on this yoke and was saddened when Embraer removed it in lieu of side sticks in some of its business jets.
The angled handles make the wrists rest in a more natural position than those sported by Boeing airliners. Pilots moving up the ladder from regionals to big-league airlines will find the change awkward, as Boeing aircraft stick to their traditional yoke, whereas Airbus swears by its iconic sidestick design.
At the turn of the century, Embraer began offering avionics upgrades to the ERJ 145 fleet. The main ones were the FMS with embedded GPS, and a head-up display (HUD) required to fly CAT III instrument landing approaches.
Despite being a Brazilian aircraft, the ERJ145 has an international composition. Gamesa from Spain built the wings of the aircraft. SONACA shipped the center and rear fuselage from Belgium, while the tail came from ENAER, the state aeronautical company in Chile. The American C&D Aerospace provided the cabin interiors.
The passenger cabin is 5 ft 11 tall and 6 ft 11 wide. The top of the tail sits 22 ft above ground. The Embraer RJ145 has a wingspan of 65 ft 9, severely reduced from the original design thanks to the swept-wing introduced in 1991. Thanks to the steerable nosewheel, the Embraer RJ145 has a minimum turning circle of 95 ft.
See also: Embraer 120 Guide and Specs
Embraer RJ145 / Prices
The price of the Embraer RJ145 has fluctuated over the years. The original design had an estimated $12 million per unit in 1989. Through constant improvements and revisions, this number rose to $14.5 million and then to $15 million by the time of the first delivery. In 2021, a new ERJ145 sold for $21 million.
The mission-specialized derivatives of the ERJ145 are significantly more expensive. The Embraer Legacy 600, a business jet introduced in 2002 based on the shortened ERJ135, cost $26 million new in 2002. The military early warning and control EMB-145-RS variant, marketed as the R-99, sold for $80 million per unit in 2000. This cost is due to the dorsal Saab Erieye radar and associated controls.
Embraer RJ145 / Performance and Handling
The flight-testing phase went superb for Embraer. The ERJ145 displayed a cruise speed of Mach 0.78, compared to the original prediction of Mach 0.74, and with fuel consumption 7% lower than expected. The maximum cruise speed of the Embraer RJ145 is 453 KTAS (knots of true airspeed). The service ceiling of the Embraer RJ145 is 37000 ft, attained with a rate of climb of 2000 fpm (feet per minute).
The standard Embraer RJ145 has a range of 1550 nautical miles. After a series of modifications to the fuel tank and engine, the ERJ145XR (Extended Range) became capable of reaching 2000 nautical miles.
With passengers, the ERJ145 has an endurance of around three hours. In American Airlines service, the average ERJ145 route lasts approximately 100 minutes. The average fuel efficiency at nominal cruise parameters is 0.92 nautical gallons per gallon.
The approach speed of the ERJ145 is 135 knots with gear and landing flaps deployed. With a load of 50 passengers, the aircraft requires a 7450 ft runway to take off and 4595 ft to land.
The wing of the Embraer Regional Jet series has vortilons under the wing to increase controllability at slow speeds. The Rolls Royce AE3007 engines on the ERJ145 have traditional clamshell thrust reversers to shorten the landing run.
Despite being a new jet with a glass cockpit, the Embraer RJ145 has a distinctly vintage feeling for pilots. The aircraft lacks any auto throttle, and its automated VNAV capabilities are limited compared to its contemporaries.
Embraer RJ145 / Modifications and Upgrades
The Embraer RJ145 family has four branches designed to cater to different needs. These are the standard ERJ145, the shortened ERJ140, the even smaller ERJ135, plus the Legacy 600 business jet and military conversions.
- ERJ145STD: The baseline design.
- ERJ145ER: The first mass-produced model delivered to airlines, featuring expanded fuel tanks for better range.
- ERJ145EU: After receiving feedback from the European market, Embraer created a specialized revision that brought the maximum takeoff weight of the ERJ145 up to 43870 lbs.
- ERJ145EP: Like the ERJ145EU, clients requested an increase in MTOW for improved payloads. The ERJ145EP had an MTOW of 46275 lbs.
- ERJ145LR: The low operational costs of the Embraer RJ145 made it an appealing option for short-haul routes with fewer passengers. To meet this demand, Embraer increased the fuel capacity from 9202 lbs to 11435 lbs.
- ERJ145XR: The first major redesign. Embraer added winglets and strakes and made a series of drag reduction changes to the aircraft. The ERJ145XR also has a new fuselage fuel tank and uprated engines.
- ERJ140ER: To extend the aircraft range with minimal work, Embraer removed six seats and shrank the fuselage, lowering the weight in the process.
- ERJ140LR: Like the ERJ145LR, but with the shortened fuselage of the ERJ140.
- ERJ135ER: For further range improvements, the ERJ135ER only carried 37 passengers.
- ERJ135LR: The ERJ135LR incorporates the same fuel tank expansions on the ERJ145LR and ERJ140LR.
In 2001, Embraer introduced a line of mission-specialized military versions based on the ERJ145LR airliner. The passenger cabin becomes a compartment for system operators.
- E-99: An airborne early warning and control aircraft based on the EMB-145 airliner. To detect aerial targets, the E-99 has a Swedish Erieye radar mounted on top of the fuselage.
- R-99: Introduced with the E-99, the R-99 is a surveillance aircraft equipped with a synthetic aperture radar (SAR), infrared imaging sensors, and other specialized gear.
Business Jet Variants
- Legacy 600 and 650: In 2001, Embraer entered the executive aviation market with the Legacy series. The Legacy 600 draws from the EMB-135 airliner and seats 13 passengers. The aircraft has a range of 3050 nautical miles in maximum configuration or 3450 nautical miles with only eight passengers. To meet the demands for long-range flights, Embraer introduced the Legacy 650 in 2009. The Legacy 650 can fly 3900 nautical miles with four passengers aboard.
- Conversions: When production of the ERJ and Legacy 600 ceased in 2020, the Embraer E-Jet and E2 families had begun replacing the regional jet in airline service. Embraer saw this as an opportunity to repurpose decommissioned ERJ airliners into business jets. In 2021, they presented a supplemental type certificate (STC) to make this conversion. The new interior has passengers in first-class seats, one on each side of the flat corridor, and no overhead bins for more headspace.
Embraer RJ145 / Where to Find Replacement Parts
Embraer has a worldwide reputation for its excellent customer service. The company has a global network of workshops authorized to stock parts and perform maintenance on the Embraer Regional Jet series, including Embraer shops. The ERJ145, ERJ140, and ERJ135 enjoy 96% of parts commonality between each other.
Embraer RJ145 / Common Problems
Compared to the Bombardier CRJ series, the cabin noise in the ERJ family is unpleasant. The noise is not a critical problem, but many passengers consider it inconvenient.
Over two decades of operation, the Embraer RJ145 has yet to experience a fatal accident. There have been 26 incidents resulting in 8 hull losses, all of which happened during takeoff or landing. Embraer is proud of this clean safety record.
To make the aircraft more economical, Embraer performed an extensive weight reduction program on the fuselage. The aircraft is lighter than its peers but made the fuselage prone to damage during extreme landings.
The most jarring incident happened in 1998 when a pilot error made a Rio-Sul ERJ 145 land so hard that the rear fuselage spar gave in right above the engines. The aircraft dragged the limp tail section over the runway until it stopped.
In 2021, the Federal Aviation Administration followed Brazil’s ANAC (National Civil Aviation Agency) and issued an airworthiness directive requiring additional inspections on the main landing gear legs of the ERJ135, ERJ140, and ERJ145 models. Routine checks in February 2021 found the side arm struts were not connected.
I would describe the cabin space and comfort in the Embraer RJ145 as adequate, but the overhead luggage compartment is too small. Unless you are particularly tall, the seating arrangement on most ERJ series aircraft gives you plenty of leg room. The disappointing part is that instead of enjoying it, most of the time, I have to put my backpack in that space since it rarely fits the overhead bins.
Embraer RJ145 / Resale Value
Through the decades of service, the Embraer RJ145 made a name for itself as a reliable and affordable regional jet. Many companies and private owners have capitalized on this and use the aircraft for charter and executive flights.
The resale price of private ERJ145 listings ranges from $2.3 to $9 million depending on the equipment, maintenance status, and overall aircraft state. As for the Legacy 600, the asking price varies from $7.5 million to $11.5 million based on the same considerations.
Embraer RJ145 / Similar Aircraft
The chief rival of the Embraer RJ145 series is the Bombardier CRJ line. Introduced in 1992 with Lufthansa, this Canadian regional jet is an evolution of their successful Challenger 600 business jet family. The CRJ100 and CRJ200 seat 50 passengers like the ERJ145 but have a higher permissible cruise speed and service ceiling.
Cabin soundproofing is comparatively better in the CRJ, but the added comfort and performance are expensive. The average Bombardier CRJ costs over $5 million more than the ERJ145.
Other small aircraft have tried to eat into the regional market coveted by Embraer. Two of the main entries there are the Fokker 70 and the BAe 146, later rebranded as the Avro RJ. The Fokker had a short production run, despite its long career with Dutch giants KLM.
As for the BAe 146, the unique four-engine high-wing regional jet sold 387 units between 1983 and 2001. This aircraft is still seen in some airports in the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe.
The ultimate competitor for the Embraer Regional Jet came from Embraer itself with the introduction of the E-Jet family in 2001. The new model has sold 1414 units, beating 1213 of the ERJ. As of 2022, there are 505 ERJ units flying, plus 1346 E-Jets.
Question: Is the Embraer RJ145 Still in Production?
Answer: No. The Embraer RJ145 production ended in 2020, with 1231 units made.
Question: How Many Seats does an Embraer RJ145 Have?
Answer: The Embraer RJ145 line seats up to 55 passengers, though most airlines opt for 50 seats.
Question: How Far Can an Embraer RJ145 fly?
Answer: The maximum range of an Embraer RJ145 is 1550 nautical miles with passengers in the EMB-145LR extended-range variant.
Question: Does the ERJ-145 have First Class?
Answer: No. ERJ 145 operators universally opt for a single class cabin.
Question: Does the Embraer RJ145 Have Entertainment?
Answer: No. Because of its short-range, Embraer opted not to include in-flight entertainment options aboard.
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