Brazilian plane maker Embraer is targeting the huge Asia-Pacific market for aircraft of up to 150 seats with its range, including its new E2 planes.

It says the region, which includes New Zealand, will need more than 3000 of the regional planes in the next 20 years.

Embraer has been making commercial aircraft for nearly 50 years and its first new generation E2 jet was delivered to Norwegian airline Wideroe in April.

The medium range planes seat four abreast and come in three variants, the largest of which has 146 seats - close in capacity to the smallest of Boeing's 737s and Airbus' A320s.


Close to 1400 of the earlier generation E1 planes have been delivered by Embraer, which has its manufacturing base near Sao Paulo.

Air New Zealand has flown Embraer planes before, using the tough Bandeirante on regional routes during the 1980s, but for its regional and domestic network it is now committed to ATR turbo-prop planes, and A320s on jet routes.

Cesar Pereira, vice president Asia Pacific for Embraer commercial aviation, said New Zealand could be an important market.

''Currently now we have the right solution; passengers prefer to fly in a jet than turbo-props.''

The Embraer jets can fly faster than turbo-props, offering up to two more services a day.

The Brazilian Government has a ''golden share'' in Embraer, whose commercial division is in talks about a tie-up with Boeing.

Brazil's President has reportedly endorsed the partnership in principle - a deal that would lead to a second global alliance between major airplane manufacturers. Rival aerospace giant Airbus is set to take control of Bombardier's single-aisle jet, a rival for Embraer's E2s.

Arjan Meijer, chief commercial officer of Embraer commercial aviation, last week said on the sidelines of the International Air Transport Association meeting in Sydney that the E2 had surpassed initial expectations.


The new generation aircraft has new Pratt & Whitney engines, newly designed wings and tail configuration, all contributing to fuel savings of more than 17 per cent. That was about 10 per cent better than earlier modelling.

The purchase price of a passenger plane made up 15 to 20 per cent of its total cost, with the rest on running costs throughout its lifetime.

Meijer also said the aircraft needed fewer heavy checks.

''The heavy check schedule was thought to be 8500 flight hours but that's pushed out to 10,000 hours. That means over a 10-year period you save a full maintenance check - two or three weeks extra plane performance.''

The company was taking a different approach to introducing a new model aircraft by retaining its old model, partly because its smallest version is the only one allowed to fly in the lucrative United States market.

In the US, regional airlines can fly up to 76 seats, but there is also a cap on a plane's takeoff weight.

Although the new engines on E2s were more efficient, they were also heavier, leading to the restriction.

''We have told our customers that if they want more E1s then we'll be able to deliver those. That's key because the E2 family will come to the market in a staged approach.''

The older and the newer version of the plane can be made on the same assembly line. Embraer had also opted to retain metal rather than carbon fibre wings on the new models, although they are longer than the old ones, saving on manufacturing costs.