The prototype of ATL-100 aircraft was presented in 2019 in São Paulo’s biggest aviation fair. In which part of the project does CEiiA enter?
CEiiA is a Center for Engineer and Product Development with a long history of experience in aviation. We started working with one of the major helicopter manufacturers in the world 12 years ago, followed by a very strong involved in the KC390 aircraft, the Brazilian military cargo airplane of Embraer, where we are still involved in various activities of civil and military certification. Last week we closed a deal with Desaer, a Brazilian company specialized in aviation industry. We signed a contract where we will be co-responsible for the development of the ATL 100, which will be manufactured, assembled and commercialized by both companies. CEiiA will allocate at first, a team of 60 engineers, that will be followed by others as the different phases of development will require. From Desaer side, the number of engineers will be at least double. The CeiiA’s Engineer team will be allocated in Évora, at the Alentejo Science and Technology Park (PACT), a city that it’s already a cluster for aviation.
What kind of advantages brings this partnership?
The major advantage for CeiiA, for Portugal and for Desaer itself will be the creation of new skills that CEiiA doesn’t have and didn’t develop until today. The center has very strong skills in development engineer in the area of design and structural calculation of segments and components of aircrafts, acquired during these last 12 to 13 years. Therefore, participating in the ATL 100 project will allow to develop new skills in the area of systems and particularly in the integration of systems, but also gain competences in the fields of avionics and in the integration of engines and other fields of development process of an aircraft, which in Portugal will go through CEiiA and through its involvement in this particular aircraft.
What does this project represent in terms of investment and job creation?
CeiiA investment, exclusively in the development phase of the aircraft, it’s about 20 million Euros for the next three years. Further on, it will develop. The estimate of creating new jobs it’s very exiting. We are expecting to have a team of 65 engineers involved in different aviation engineering projects, with different clients and partners, mainly Embraer, Leonardo Helicopters, Coptar, Desaer, among others, that we think it will compel a full and permanent allocation of the engineering capacity. It’s a highly qualified job. In the industrialization phase we are planning to have a unit here and another one in Brasil, and also to create a unit for manufacturing components here in Portugal that will have a very significant effect of replication in a network of companies that are working in this field in Portugal today. Some small and medium sized companies, others even considered big companies, and this will create an effect of directly creating new jobs, by bringing a factory of pieces for aircrafts. The goal is to actually assemble the aircraft in Portugal, which will have a major effect in terms of indirect job creation due to its implementation in Alentejo, specifically in Évora, Beja and Ponte de Sôr, cities that are very well prepared in terms of infrastructures to receive a project of this nature. Alentejo might very quickly increase significantly what is today the highly qualified jobs created by the influence of a quite important aviation cluster in the region.
What makes this aircraft sustainable and competitive?
This is a light transportation aircraft – that is where the name comes from, ATL [from the Portuguese acronym] – that is for civil use, transporting passengers and cargo, postal services and also to support the agricultural busniess, which in some countries of South America or Africa, is very relevant. It can also be used by the military, giving support to missions in remote areas, medical evacuation, transportation of troops, launching of para-shooters, all missions that can fit in the typology of this aircraft. The ATL 100 is prepared to accomplish a very wide range of missions. It’s more than an aircraft, it’s a pre-prepared logistic system, capable of, in the same day and in short periods of time, alter its missions, from passengers to cargo, from medical emergency missions to transporting diverse goods, therefore aiming at a very flexible logistic system. It has also very relevant operating characteristics. It takes off and lads in very small runways, and it actually doesn’t need very well prepared runways, they can be unpaved. Therefore, the airport costs are very low.
How does your business plan fits in a market affected by the pandemic?
The recently created partnership it’s aimed at a market that is growing very slowly. Many manufacturers of these type of aircrafts have been abandoning these type of aircraft, mainly because they where betting on bigger aircrafts, above 120 passengers. They continue to fly, but they have a life span that its estimated to end. Therefore, the business plans that we built together foresees that more than 5.000 aircrafts of this typology will stop flying in the next 15 years, when their life span will end. That constitutes an opportunity for this new aircraft to come along. If to the growth that we were already predicted, we add the post-pandemic tendency of air transportation with less passengers, it can mean an even higher growth. Therefore, we are confident that we will be able to stick to the calendar of development and industrialization that we have, so that the ATL 100 will appear in the market in a moment of big demand for this type of aircrafts, with the capacity of quickly recouping investment.
Who are the potential clients? Is there already manifested interest or signed contracts?
In the past six months, the ATL 100 received many expressions of interests from different clients in the field of defense and logistic transportation. We are talking about companies that act in markets, in countries and in regions where areas are very wide and the road network, in most cases, do not allow passengers and cargo to reach quickly their destination. Countries and regions where there are thousand of airfields with very weak conditions for an aircraft to land. Therefore, conventional aircrafts do not have that capacity. Actually, the ATL 100 it’s an aircraft with fixed gear counterparts, non retractable, not pressurized, that can reach up to 1.600Km of distance and prepared to be much simpler. In fact, it’s created to make goods and passenger arrive from point A to point B where those points are typically in remote, hidden areas, where it’s hard for a bigger aircraft or medium ones or even a helicopter, to operate.
You are presenting this project as a “counter-attack” to the adverse effects of the pandemic. Why is that?
Because of the jobs that will create. For the fact that it will create jobs in a region that will be particularly affected, very dependent from industries that are affected by the sudden fall of air traffic and other impacts that we are aware of in commercial aviation. Also because we can create chains of supply very quickly, allowing a high number of companies, some very small but with potential to grow significantly, companies that already integrate the cluster of national aviation, therefore, we are very satisfied of having been able to bring to good terms all the negotiation and balance with Desaer, so we can have the ATL 100 in Portugal. As a final goal of this project, we ambition to bring to our country the first Final Assembly Line, that means that for the first time in Portugal there can be participation of national companies from the beginning to the end of the development of an aircraft. From the moment its conceived, going though all the engineering and development phases, for the testing phase but also the part of industrialization and assembling. Therefore, the great ambition of this project is to Portugal to have for the first time – and after years of investment from different governments and many private investors and companies that risk – an aircraft to take off from here, developed, manufactured, assembled in national territory. This way, joining a very restricted group of European countries that manage to have in their territories a product developed by their industries, their factories, their engineering centers In this case, an aircraft assembled from beginning to end. This is in fact the cherry on top of the cake. It’s a recent path, very short when compared with the Spanish one, but it puts us in another scale, in another level, as a country that is more prepared and with better internal conditions to make an aircraft from beginning to end.