Embraer Opens Florida Customer Center

First U.S.-built Phenom 100 handed over.

Phenom 100

Phenom 100

First U.S.-built Phenom 100

Embraer on Monday officially opened its Global Customer Center in Melbourne, Florida, cutting the ribbon on a sleek and modern customer design center and 80,000-square-foot factory that will eventually have the capacity to turn out nearly 100 airplanes a year.

Hundreds of Embraer employees and customers attended the grand opening along with several Florida politicians including Gov. Rick Scott, who hailed the milestone as an indication that jobs are returning to the region after the shutdown of the Space Shuttle program at the nearby Kennedy Space Center earlier this year.

“This center’s opening, in conjunction with Embraer’s first U.S. manufacturing plant, further illustrates that Florida is open for business with innovative opportunities,” Scott said at the event.

The Embraer factory officially opened last February, but the first airplane built there, a white-and-black Phenom 100, was handed over to customer Executive AirShare, a Kansas City-based fractional provider, only on Monday. Embraer must build five complete airplanes before it receives its FAA production certificate allowing full rate production to start. The other four Phenom 100s are in various stages of construction inside the factory, where production rates will ramp up to two to three airplanes a month by next April, Embraer predicts.

Plans include adding Phenom 300 production to the line in 2013, when build rates at the Melbourne factory are projected to double, reaching 60 airplanes per year. The company will also continue building both of these models at its main factory in Brazil, although the bulk of U.S. and European customers are expected to purchase airplanes built in Melbourne.

Once the Melbourne factory is fully operational, it will take about six weeks to build each airplane, Embraer says. The factory currently employs 112 workers, 19 of whom are former NASA employees who lost their jobs when the Space Shuttle was retired. Embraer plans to increase its Melbourne factory workforce to 200 employees, plus around 75 additional workers at the adjacent customer center, where buyers choose the exterior paint schemes and interior configurations for their airplanes.

Embraer Executive Jets president Ernie Edwards said the costs of building airplanes in Melbourne are similar to those of producing them in Brazil. Parts sourced in South America are shipped to Miami and then trucked to the Melbourne factory, he explained, with the remainder of components drop-shipped from around the world directly to the Florida factory. Edwards noted there is room for expansion in Melbourne that could allow the company to bring production of the Legacy 450 and 500 models to the United States as well.