Embraer shows off light attack aircraft that could be built in Jacksonville

Brazilian company hopes to land 5-year contract from U.S. government.

The Super Tucano is a single-engine, turboprop plane that can stay over a battlefield for several hours, unleash a load of bombs and then, if necessary, land on a rugged dirt runway.

The company that wants to build it in Jacksonville brought one to the international airport Sunday to show off to local media and dignitaries.

Embraer Aircraft Holding expects to hear in June if it has won a five-year contract from the U.S. Department of Defense to build the light attack aircraft. If Embraer wins - and company officials said they were optimistic - construction would begin almost immediately on renovations to a vacant hangar at Jacksonville International Airport.

The company, which is based in Brazil and has an office in Fort Lauderdale, would assemble and test the planes in Jacksonville.

Gary J. Spulak, company president, said 50 people will be hired to work on planes that would be delivered to the Air Force by 2013. The average salary would be $49,526, the company has said.

Jacksonville has the facilities and workforce needed for the project, as well as weather suitable for flight testing, Spulak said.

Embraer officials said that Super Tucanos built in Brazil are in use by seven air forces around the world. The aircraft, which can carry several bombs and has a .50-caliber machine gun in each wing, has seen extensive use against narcotics cartels in Colombia. It also has surveillance equipment for intelligence gathering, law enforcement and disaster relief.

U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw of Jacksonville, who sits on the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, said the plane is designed with operations in Afghanistan and Iraq in mind.

Crenshaw, R-Fla., and Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll were among those on hand to see the Super Tucano and tout the job benefits the project would bring to the area.

Embraer tried previously to build spy planes at Cecil airport in Jacksonville, but that deal collapsed when the Army canceled a contract for the plane.

All hangars at Cecil Field are now leased, said Steve Grossman, executive director of the Jacksonville Aviation Authority. He said his agency is willing to invest up to $2 million to renovate the hangar at JIA, which is more than 40,000 square feet in size.

The Jacksonville City Council has approved up to $30,000 in incentives to Embraer should it land the contract. The company has also turned to the state for $620,000 in state incentives. Spulak said it would invest at least $4 million into the Jacksonville operations.