The Xingu, operated by the French Ecole de l’Aviation de Transport (EAT) from Airforce Base 702 in Avord, France, has, to date, been used to train more than 1,900 cadets from France but also pilots from Belgium, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Gabon, Luxembourg, and Madagascar.
The EMB-121 Xingu first landed at Air Force Base 702 on March 29th, 1983 as a training aircraft replacement for the Dassault 312 Flamant. In 1984, the first batch of newly qualified pilots concluded their training. Since that time, over 330.000 flight hours have been flown by the 43 Xingus of EAT and today, a total of 33 aircraft remain in operation.
“We are very proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with the French Air Force in celebrating this milestone of 30 years of operations of the Xingu. It is a historic achievement for Embraer too,” said Jackson Schneider, President & CEO, Embraer Defense & Security. “Supporting a fleet over 30 years operated by an Air Force, such as France’s, demonstrates rigor in its demanding operations, and reflects Embraer’s commitment to building strong relationships with its customers to support the aircraft throughout its entire life cycle.”
In 2012, the French Air Force launched a modernization program to extend the operational life of the Xingus to 2025 through modernizing the avionics. This will keep the Xingu aircraft in operation for 42 consecutive years a rarity in the aerospace industry. The support of the aircraft is carried out by Embraer, providing spare parts and technical documentation and support in cooperation with France’s Daher-Socata (supporting the logistics) and Airbus Defence & Space as the maintenance provider.
“We are very satisfied with the Xingu which continues to have undeniable qualities that make it perfectly suited for the job,” said Général de Corps Aérien Serge Soulet, Commandant des forces aériennes et du soutien des Forces aériennes. “The new features of the Xingu, now equipped with a new avionics system, together with the flight qualities of the original, allow pilots to effectively bridge the gap between their initial training and the flying of military aircraft, even the most modern such as the A400M or the MRTT”.
About the EMB 121 Xingu
The EMB 121 Xingu, named after a Brazilian indigenous tribe and a river in the Amazon, was developed on the Embraer Bandeirante turboprop platform. Designed for the executive transportation market, with a capacity for up to eight passengers, the Bandeirante was the first pressurized aircraft to be built in Brazil. The pressurization allowed the airplane to fly at an altitude of 28,000 feet (8,534 meters), above cloud formations and most atmospheric disturbances, while maintaining an internal pressure equivalent to 8,000 feet (2,438 meters), thus ensuring passenger comfort.
Although the structure of the airplane was based on the Bandeirante, the Xingu was fitted with more powerful engines. Another innovation was the Xingu’s T-shaped tail, whereby the horizontal stabilizer was placed at the top of the vertical fin. In this way, the wash of the propellers did not affect the horizontal stabilizer, ensuring lower vibration and noise levels.
The first prototype of the Xingu, tail number PP-ZXI, made its first flight on October 22, 1976, before it was modified with a pressurized cabin. The official presentation of the aircraft took place at Embraer, on December 4, that same year. In May 1977, the enhanced Xingu successfully flew with a pressurized cabin.
The first customer was the Brazilian Air Force (Força Aérea Brasileira FAB), which selected the aircraft to serve with the Special Transportation Group (Grupo de Transporte Especial GTE), headquartered in Brasília. The prototype of the Xingu was the first Brazilian-made airplane to cross the Atlantic, together with a Bandeirante, in the colors of French regional airline, Air Littoral, on May 26, 1977. The Xingu was certified in 1979, and has since enjoyed excellent acceptance on the international market.