Frederico Fleury Curado is a high-flying executive with simple manners and, as the thinking (and talking) head of the world's third largest aircraft manufacturer, he makes it plain that innovation is part of Embraer's DNA.
For one, the company has had to diversify its range of products to adapt to market forces, while maintaining its focus on regional aircraft. It has also been experimenting with biofuels, as pressure intensifies around the world to find alternatives to fossil fuels.
Curado joined the Sao Jose dos Campos-based company in 1984 as an engineer and has been at the helm of the prominent Brazilian multinational company since 2007. That put him in the driver's seat during the prolonged financial crisis, which he admits has taken a toll. Embraer has had to reinvent itself,, invest again in the defense industry and diversify into executive jets.
From his office in Sao Paulo, Curado says 2008 "was a big blow. We felt the impact in 2009 in terms of delivery and since then we have not yet recovered." The company's delivery fell by 20 percent that year. In the second quarter of 2012, Embraer's profits dropped by 25 percent (year on year), to 114 million reais ($56.2 million). Over 90 percent of Embraer's sales come from exports (9.85 billion reais last year, $4.86 billion).
But a relaxed Curado says Embraer is doing alright. "We have never been afraid of investing. We have consolidated a respectable position in the marketplace. We have more than 65 customers in over 40 countries. Margins are not great, but we are running a stable business... It's been rewarding."
The history of Embraer, born as the state-owned Empresa Brasileira de Aeronautica, combines scientific innovation and entrepreneurship.
"In Brazil we had a long-term project that dates back from WWII, which was to generate knowledge in aerospace, technology and science, rather than trying to acquire technology. In the 1950s, the Brazilian government launched an engineering school, and also established a research center for aerospace sciences. So the country went from books and academic knowledge and science to industrial capability...