The Ipanema was the first airplane produced in series, in the world, to leave the factory already certified to fly with this type of fuel the same as is used in automobiles and it is still the only one.
The first delivery of the ethanol-powered airplane took place in March 2005 coincidentally, it was also the one-thousandth Ipanema to be sold. From then on, Embraer also began to offer ethanol conversion kits to the owners of airplanes powered by AvGas. Up to 2014, there were 269 aircraft sold, as well as 205 conversion kits, totaling 474 aircraft powered by alcohol.
This alternative energy source, derived from sugarcane, reduced the environmental impact and operating and maintenance costs, and also improved the overall performance of the aircraft, making it more attractive to the market. “Ethanol is efficient and costs less, and it is an alternative that pleased customers many of whom have their own sugarcane plantations,” says Fábio Bertoldi Carretto, Embraer’s Sales Manager for the Ipanema. “Not surprisingly, over 80% of new aircraft are sold with this configuration.” Today, about 40% of the Ipanema fleet in operation is powered by ethanol.
The use of ethanol is based on the fact that Brazil is a big producer of this fuel, which was already being used by Brazilian automobiles for over 20 years. Each ethanol-powered Ipanema pollutes less, and puts about 44 pounds less of lead into the atmosphere per year. Based on the total fleet over these past 10 years, they have emitted 51 less tons of lead.
The model is also more economical: on average, the owner of an ethanol-powered airplane spends 25% less on fuel. Furthermore, the fuel provides 7% more power, improving the aircraft’s performance on takeoff, climbing, speed, and maximum altitude.
Produced without interruption for more than 40 years, the Ipanema has already surpassed 1,300 units delivered and it leads the agricultural aviation market in Brazil, with a 65% share. Seventy units of the Ipanema were sold, in 2013, to customers in Brazil and the Mercosur.
The airplane is used mainly to spray agrochemichals, thus avoiding losses from machinery rolling over the crops and making the operation more flexible. It also can be used to spread seeds, for basic firefighting, stocking rivers, and combating larvae and disease-bearing insects or animals. The main crops that have required the airplane are: cotton, rice, sugarcane, citrus, eucalyptus, corn, soy, and coffee.
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