Contrary to claims by Government that the Embraer 190 aircraft is being acquired as a “Strategic Airlift Aircraft” to “significantly enhance the operations of the Ghana Armed Forces, especially in its peacekeeping operations,” the New Statesman can reveal that the Embraer 190 is not built to airlift military personnel. It is a commercial aircraft, pure and simple.
The only difference is that Ghana’s order has been enhanced, at an extra cost, to serve as a presidential/executive jet.
Indeed, the acquisition of the E190 would make lower middle income Ghana the only country to acquire a commercial jet, and spend an extra $1 million to enhance it to first class, executive status and classify it as a troops’ carrier!
E190 is the plane that Sarah Palin used for her two-month campaign as running mate to US Republican presidential candidate John McCain in 2008.
New Statesman investigations show that out of the over 1,000 firm orders from 60 companies in 40 countries and the more than 750 Embraer jets delivered, Ghana is the only client which has ordered an E190 to be used as a military transport jet.
A former Ghana Airways pilot told our reporter, “Commercial jets are not bought to sit in a hanger until troops have to be lifted occasionally for a peace-keeping mission. It is like buying a Yutong bus to take your wife to the market once a month.”
Our checks also suggest that there is no model described as E190 SAA, as indicated by Government in the purchase agreement presented to Parliament.
The Embraer 190, with a seating capacity of 100, is similar to (but slightly smaller than) the Airbus A319 (which sits 120), which President Kufuor had contracted to acquire and his successor cancelled as “profligate expenditure”.
On Thursday, 23rd April 2009, barely 2 months after President Mills had stated in his first state of the nation address that “we will review the decision to purchase two executive presidential aircrafts because Ghana simply cannot afford the expenditure at this time”, representatives from Embraer, led by Antonio Neubarth flew to Accra to make a presentation to Vice President John Mahama, Lt Gen JH Smith and the Military High Command for the purchase of the Embraer 190.
At that time, Embraer was not a manufacturer of any military transport aircraft. A week prior to the presentation made by Embraer to Ghanaian officials, however, Embraer had signed a contract with the Brazilian Air Force to begin the production of the KC-390 military transport program, an aircraft specifically designed to serve as a military transport aircraft, serving as a troop carrier and effective cargo and tanker aircraft and estimated at a fully-kitted, total flat cost of $50 million per unit.
Thus, if the Ghanaian officials wanted a military transport aircraft, as Government has sought to project this purchase, they ought to have known that the E190 was not it and if it had to be an Embraer then it had to be the then yet to be manufactured KC-390, which made its first flight in 2011.
The Embraer EMB 111 Bandeirulha, Embraer EMB 312 Tucano, Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucano, AMX International AMX, Embraer R-99, Embraer 145 AEW&C, Embraer 145 RS/AGS, Embraer P-99, and Embraer KC-390 are the planes manufactured by Embraer for military purposes.
However, the 2011 Embraer KC-390 is the only Embraer Aircraft built for military transport.
The EMBRAER 190 is the third of the brand-new four-member Embraer E-Jets family of commercial aircraft that entered service in August 2005. The jet may be configured in one or two classes, seating 98 to 114 passengers in a comfortable four-abreast (2-2), no-middle-seat, configuration, and can fly up to 2,400 nautical miles (4,450 kilometers) nonstop.
A check through the list of its primary users show only commercial operators, including, KLM and Kenya Airways, which since 2006 has operated an E190 jet.
As at July 2011, the 417 Embraer 190 aircraft (all variants) out of the 417 sold/manufactured are all being operated by civil operators/ airlines. No country’s air force has so far bought the Embraer 190 to serve as a military transport aircraft because it was not built for that purpose.
Indeed, our checks further indicate that clients have paid between $28.5m-$40m per unit, irrespective of enhanced accessories. Ghana is paying a basic price of $55m.
Civil operators of the Embraer 190 include Air Canada with 15 aircrafts, JetBlue Airways with 47 aircrafts, KLM Cityhopper with 17, AeroMéxico Connect 8, Azul Brazilian Airlines, 30, and Kenya Airways with 1 aircraft (2 firm orders pending). Other orders include 15 aircraft for US Airways, and 15 aircrafts for Austral Líneas Aéreas (Argentina), all acquired for commercial flights.
The 2008 Republican Vice presidential Candidate, Sarah Palin, chartered JetBlue’s Embraer 190 for a period of 2 months with her aircraft setting an E190 record when aircraft N239JB made a non-stop flight from Anchorage, Alaska (ANC) to Buffalo, New York (BUF), a total of 4,989 km.
The Embraer KC390, the military transport jet has a payload of 52,029 pounds as opposed to the 28,836.00 of the E190; a maximum takeoff weight of 178,574 pounds as opposed to E190’s 110,892 pounds.