Boeing’s bid to buy Embraer could see Brazilian engineers work on the 797

According to people involved with the history, Boeing took serious looks alternately at Embraer and at its Canadian rival Bombardier over the past 18 years. Its renewed move on Embraer could herald the acquisition of engineering talent to work on its next new jet, the 797.

The revelation last month that Boeing was in talks to acquire control of Brazilian airplane manufacturer Embraer may have seemed like a bolt from the blue, but the U.S. company has quietly explored such a deal twice before.

The previous efforts indicate Boeing’s strategic interest includes the acquisition of engineering talent to work on its next new jet.

According to people involved with the history, Boeing took serious looks alternately at Embraer and at its Canadian rival Bombardier over the past 18 years.

In May 1999, then-Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief executive Alan Mulally commissioned the first study of the possibility of buying Embraer.

There was even a family connection: Daniel Da Silva, now a senior executive at Boeing Capital Corporation, the jetmaker’s airplane financing unit, was a principal in that Boeing study. His father, Ozilio da Silva, was one of Embraer’s founders, its first chief operating officer and later the jetmaker’s chief executive, though he left the company in 1991.

An executive familiar with Boeing’s approaches to Embraer over the years, who asked to remain anonymous because he spoke without company authorization, said the impetus for the approach then was to bolster the future of the jet Boeing inherited from McDonnell Douglas, the Long Beach-built 717.

Embraer was developing its 70- and 90-seat E-jets and the idea was to encourage it to engineer as much commonality as possible with the 106- to 117- seat 717, creating a family of airplanes for the otherwise orphan 717 jet.

Not another de Havilland

The study’s conclusion was very positive and Mulally was set to move ahead.

However, Harry Stonecipher, then president of Boeing, nixed the move, according to three people with knowledge of what happened.

Apparently judging that Canada offered less risk than Brazil, Stonecipher instead switched targets and launched an effort to buy Bombardier’s aerospace division.

Commercial Airplanes executive Gary Scott and then-Boeing chief financial officer Deborah Hopkins were the leads in that push. The two shuttled back and forth to Montreal for detailed talks with the Beaudoin family, which controlled…

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