Pioneer Airlines: Embraer’s Very Own Carrier

It sounds strange for an aircraft manufacturer to have its very own airline, and yet, Brazilian planemaker Embraer has “Pioneer Airlines.” Now flying for five years, where does this airline fly, and what kinds of passengers is it geared towards? Let’s find out!

Established in 2017

Five years ago, in 2017, Embraer established its very own “airline” to accelerate the certification of the new E-Jet Family. The firm used this in-house airline to fly simulated airline operations, including high frequency, high-cycle schedules, as well as cold weather flying in North America.


The goal, Embraer notes on its website, was for Pioneer Airlines to “ensure the E2’s smooth and successful entry into the marketplace.” “We’re building the day-to-day workings of our own airline to ensure this aircraft arrives on the market super robust and super mature,” Priscila Doro, Technical Marketing Manager for Embraer, says in a video. Carlos Silveira, a Flight Test Engineer for Embraer, adds that, through Pioneer, the planemaker is going to be able to give its launch customer “a new, mature E2, ready-to-go, as if it had been operating in an airline.”

Is it really an airline, though?

Embraer states in its marketing that Pioneer is “an airline within Embraer with a very real mission.” While the mission might be very real, it seems like the airline might not be. Indeed, if we take a step back and look at Pioneer Airlines’ activities, it basically seems that this airline name is simply one assigned to Embraer’s E2 flight test team.

While the “airline” may have flown simulated airline operations, including some high-frequency operations, it doesn’t appear to have flown any members of the public with real flight bookings, reservations, and boarding passes. So does Pioneer Airlines meet the criteria to be called an airline?


Pioneer Airlines is simply the name of Embraer’s E-Jet E2 flight test team. Photo: Embraer

So what makes an airline?

The ICAO’s own founding document often referred to as the “Chicago Convention,” states that “Airline” means any air transport enterprise offering or operating an international air service, with “air service” defined as scheduled flights “performed by aircraft for the public transport of passengers, mail or cargo.” For the purposes of the convention, the word international was included, but most would agree that domestic service would count as well.

Without getting too in-depth with specific definitions and legal technicalities, it doesn’t seem like Pioneer Airlines would meet the ICAO’s own definition of an airline.

Regardless of where you stand on Pioneer Airlines’ legitimacy as an airline, the team members of Embraer seemed to have successfully accomplished their airline’s mission- delivering a solid, functioning aircraft to E2 launch customer Widerøe. The regional Norwegian carrier was selected to be the global launch customer for the newly developed Embraer flagship in 2017, with the plane officially entering service in April 2018. The airline currently operates three E190-E2 aircraft.

But what do you think? Considering the information presented, would you consider Embraer’s Pioneer Airlines to be an actual airline? Or is this just fancy marketing? Share your opinion with us by leaving a comment.

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