The light air support defense plane, contracted by the U.S. Air Force from Sierra Nevada Corp. and built by Brazilian-based Embraer, has passed its military certifications and was officially approved for use by the Air Force. The Afghan National Army for light air support will eventually use the plane.
"The capability speaks for itself," said Taco Gilbert, vice president of the Sierra Nevada Corp. "It's gotten its air worthiness approval, which is a stamp of approval from the U.S. Air Force."
As the first Super Tucano built in the United States, this plane is one of 20 ordered in the original Air Force contract for $427 million. Gilbert said he felt confident there could be additional orders, and said the group was in contact with other potential customers.
There are eight planes in various stages of production, said Dan Culleton, general manager for Embraer. Each plane spends about 15 days in each segment of production, which are broken down into further stages. Planes go through pre-equipping and pre-assembly, final assembly and flight operations assessments before being presented to the customer.
About 137 employees here were hired from the area for these construction projects, Culleton said. Employees range from technicians to support labor to production engineers to logistics specialists.
"Jacksonville is blessed with aviation skills," he said.
Gary Spulak, president of Embraer Aircraft Holding Inc., said the core of the project's success has been Jacksonville's workforce, which was a main driver for selecting the city as the site for its construction.
"It's a win-win," he said. "A win for the community, a win for us and a win for the air fighter."
Mayor Alvin Brown, who was in attendance, praised the success of the facility and Embraer's public-private partnership with the city.
"It's about creating economic security," he said, "and that's happening right here in Jacksonville… . This achievement is a testament to Jacksonville's stature as the most military-friendly city in America."