SAO PAULO, Jan 9 (Reuters) - Embraer EMBR3.SAERJ.N delivered a record 169 planes in 2007, helped by surging demand for its popular regional and executive jets, the Brazilian aircraft manufacturer said on Wednesday.
Embraer’s previous delivery record was 161 planes in 2001, before the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States led to a prolonged slump in air travel that left the aviation industry reeling. In 2006, Embraer delivered 130 aircraft.
Embraer, short for Empresa Brasileira de Aeronautica, also finished 2007 with the largest firm order backlog in its history, totaling $18.8 billion. At the end of 2006, its backlog was $14.8 billion.
The company, whose main factory is located just outside Sao Paulo in Sao Jose dos Campos, said it had made improvements to its assembly line in 2007 that helped it speed up production to meet growing demand.
Embraer delivered 130 commercial jets last year, 45 of them in the fourth quarter. Just seven were ERJ 145s, an old-style commuter plane that can seat up to 50 passengers. The remaining 123 came from Embraer’s family of next-generation regional planes known as E-jets, which are flown by carriers such as JetBlue Airways JBLU.O and US Airways LCC.N.
Embraer’s main rival in the regional jet market is Canada’s Bombardier Inc BBDb.TO, which currently only makes stretched versions of its 50-seat commuter plane that seat up to 86 passengers. The next-generation Embraer 190 can seat as many as 120 passengers.
To diversify its revenue base, Embraer has been aggressively branching out into the executive jet market in recent years. It delivered 35 private jets in 2007, 14 of them in the fourth quarter. In 2006, it delivered 27 private jets.
Embraer, which was privatized in 1994, also makes military aircraft. It delivered four military planes last year, one less than in 2006.
Embraer expects total deliveries to jump to between 205 and 215 planes in 2008 and to between 315 and 350 in 2009, lifted by surging demand for its new Phenom executive jets, the first of which will take to the skies later this year. (Reporting by Todd Benson; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)