It’s been a year since Embraer first got air under the wheels of the Phenom 100 - the Brazilian planemaker’s entry into the dynamic field of Very Light Jets. Now with a fleet of four Phenom 100s flying certification- and maturity-program flights- the sleek little aircraft seems to be accelerating smoothly toward its lift-off as a certificated aircraft when awarded its flying papers later this year.
Embraer’s Phenom 100: Fast-tracking for the finish.
Since launching the Phenom 100 and its larger light-jet sibling - the Phenom 300 - the company has captured the attention of observers and buyers alike- thanks- in part- to Embraer’s smooth handling of development of the Phenom 100 as well as an increasingly diverse product line.
Unveiled alongside the Phenom 300 in May 2005- the Phenom 100 helped launch Embraer into fulfilling its promise to expand beyond its sole corporate aviation offering – the ERJ-135-airliner-based Legacy 600 – and invest heavily in business aviation. In the years since- the company has upped the ante with its Legacy and Lineage lines too. Most recently Embraer added two more new designs to the Legacy line. These two jets- a midlight and midsize cabin model- recently became the Legacy 450 and Legacy 500- respectively.
The Lineage 1000- very large-cabin niche model in many ways- uses the EMBRAER-190 airliner as its basis. Between the spread of products that range from the Phenom 100 to the Lineage 1000- these are busy times for the Brazilian planemaker. Prior to expanding into corporate aviation- Embraer enjoyed a long- respected reputation for its line of regional airliners- its line of general aviation aircraft and military trainers – all of which have found global acceptance.
The Phenom 100 represents Embraer’s first clean-sheet business jet design - but not its last. The Phenom 100 also reflects not only an international interest- but considerable international collaboration by Embraer. For example- Embraer tapped BMW Group Designworks USA to create the design for the Phenom 100’s cabin- and Pratt & Whitney Canada got the nod for the small turbofan engines - while Garmin International landed the panel.
For the initial wind-tunnel tests Embraer tapped the University of Washington Aeronautical Laboratory to analyze the aerodynamics of the Phenom 100 using a one-sixth-scale model before moving on to a second phase of tests at Brazil’s General Command for Aerospace Technology.
For the third and final phase of wind-tunnel tests- the program moved to Russia’s Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute in Zhukovsky for validation – work that proved extremely accurate on past Embraer projects such as the company’s EMBRAER 170 and EMBRAER 190 airliners.
Since that first Phenom 100 inaugurated the formal flight-test phase in July 2007- three additional flight-test articles entered the test and validation program geared to winning initial certification in the second half of this year. With things progressing well in Brazil- let’s take a look at other facets of Embraer’s Phenom 100 program- and where it stands today.
By the numbers
While the Phenom 100 can cruise at altitudes comparable to its competition and promises speed and range competitive in its class- it delivers these numbers with a cabin that stands as the largest of a group that includes the Eclipse- Cessna’s Citation Mustang- the HondaJet and the currently dormant Adam A700 - in fact- Embraer identifies Cessna’s CJ1 entry-level jet as a fitting competitor in the cabin-size stakes. Constructed primarily of aluminum- the Phenom 100’s MTOW is believed to put it second in the group of VLJs- below the HondaJet. But for that weight- Phenom 100 operators enjoy a cabin closer in size to larger entry-level light jets- as mentioned above. Measuring 11 feet long- 4.9-feet tall and 5.1-feet wide (3.6 feet at the floor)- the Phenom 100’s total cabin volume stands out. And with a flight deck and systems designed for single-pilot operation- the Phenom 100 offers features generally available only on much large- more-expensive business jets.
But as designed and constructed by a company known largely for its hard-working regional airliners- the Phenom 100 is an executive jet built for high utilization. Even systems and maintenance needs are designed for long years of service and simple maintenance needs.
Get-up and go The integration and sophistication of the Prodigy flight deck complement the single-pilot design of the Phenom 100 by reducing pilot workload and increasing pilot awareness. The Phenom 100 also promises airborne performance as advanced as its flight deck.
Power for the Phenom 100 comes courtesy of a pair of Pratt & Whitney Canada PW617F engines – the first application of this particular PW600-series model – developing 1-615 pounds of thrust and flat-rated to ISA conditions plus 10 degrees Celsius. In a move to further ease pilot workload and assure best-available efficiency from these small turbofans- P&WC equips these engines with dual Full Authority Digital Engine Controller (FADEC).
The combination of the light-but-powerful PW617F engines and the enhanced aerodynamics of the airframe allows the Phenom 100 to reach a maximum cruise speed of 380 knots true airspeed- a speed that puts it at the top of the VLJ pack- while nibbling at the edge of today’s entry-level jet field. The jet presents an operational cost of 40% less than the competitors.
The Phenom 100’s service ceiling of FL410 keeps it in the highest company in its class- however the Phenom 100 needs 3-400 feet of field length for take-off- putting it behind its competitors in this market.
The currently listed price of about $3 million puts the Phenom somewhat above two of its competitors. But thanks to its enviable combination of a large cabin for its class- competitive cruise speed- and range- Embraer has not been left wanting in the orders department. Indeed- the planemaker has been active in rolling out the support- service and training infrastructure it needs to support a new jet with the popularity of the Phenom 100.
In the air progress
As noted- Embraer flew its first flight-test Phenom last July and the program has progressed steadily since. Embraer added the fourth Phenom 100 to the flight-test program in March- dedicating this particular version to completing the company’s pre-certification maturity program. In April that same Phenom 100 prototype became the first to fly in the United States when it arrived at Eglin Air Force Base for tests in the base’s renowned climate-test center.
The prototype endured more than 12 hours in the chamber with temperatures as low as -40 degrees to cold soak the aircraft and its components. Technicians conducted low-temperature tests of the engines- accessory systems- batteries- doors and other systems as part of Embraer’s development program for the VLJ.
According to Embraer- the Eglin test provided a couple of benefits. First- the low-temperature cold-soak tests confirmed the functionality of the aircraft’s various systems when exposed to extreme conditions. Second- the tests helped the engineers gain valuable experience with which to make the aircraft more robust and to simplify cold-weather procedures.
The Phenom 100 also continued to advance through the certification process with successful completion of flutter tests at Mach 0.77- a speed 10 percent above the jet’s Mach 0.7 Mmo. By the end of June- the fleet of test aircraft had flown more than 800 hours.
On the ground progress
While the company’s engineers- technicians and test pilots continue their aerial efforts to complete certification of the Phenom 100- on the ground Embraer pursued preparations for the needs of customers of a business jet line growing in popularity and market penetration. The company has established sales beachheads in Mexico- Canada- Europe and the Middle East and Asia- and worked to establish the service and support network such a global customer-base requires.
One of the recent steps also served to help expand the company’s production capabilities. On May 13- Embraer used a local backdrop to unveil plans for a new 150-000-square-foot facility in Melbourne- Florida. This $50-million investment at Melbourne International Airport (MLB) will create Embraer’s first final-assembly and aircraft-completion plant outside of Brazil. Embraer plans for the Melbourne facility to serve as a factory assembling both Phenoms – the 100 and its larger kin- the 300 – as well as a paint- delivery and customer-design center.
When operational in 2010- Embraer expects the Melbourne facility to employ about 200 skilled workers engaged in everything from aircraft final assembly to production planning- logistics- quality assurance- interior design- exterior painting- engineering- flight test- delivery and administration.
With previously announced expectations for production to range between 120 and 150 by the end of 2009- the added facilities should help the company meet its goal. A relatively rapid projected production cycle of nine days per airplane is key to meeting this ambitious production target. The entire design and assembly of the Phenom 100 takes into account this rapid production cycle. If the sales add up as expected- Embraer plans to be capable of meeting them.
On the service side- a rapidly expanding global fleet of any new model – or- as in this case- the hundreds of Phenom 100 and 300s and Legacy models coming in the next five years – necessitates the establishment of an accessible customer support. To that end- Embraer continues to execute its global plans for an expanded network of factory- authorized and factory service centers. The company ultimately expects to achieve its network goal of 38 factory-authorized centers to complement its seven factory centers by the end of this year.
A new jet from a new family means new pilots in need of suitable training. As with any single-pilot aircraft- that training must prepare pilots for a cockpit geared to those needs and rippling with technology. And Embraer is already progressing through its plans for four training sites dedicated to its Phenoms. The first of two U.S. training centers will be up and running in Dallas- TX- with a second- Europe-based facility opening in 2009 in Burgess Hill- UK. The third facility- to be installed in the U.S.- will be running in 2010. A fourth training center is planned for 2012.
Modern systems- modern jet
As we see increasingly in the realm of modern integrated flight decks and new business jets- Embraer opted to work with a major avionics supplier in Garmin to implement a custom variation of an existing product for the Phenom 100. Garmin’s increasingly popular G1000 system provides the underpinning for what Embraer dubs the Prodigy Flight Deck. The three-display version Embraer tapped for the Phenom 100 employs 12-inch screens- two serving as Primary Flight Displays (PFD) and a center-panel Multifunction Display (MFD).
Operators may opt to upgrade the Prodigy system with the latest enhancement from Garmin- a Synthetic Vision System (SVS). This high-powered enhancement employs a detailed land map and GPS position information to generate a synthesized view of the world ahead – terrain- buildings- runways- etc.
Additionally- working with the avionics system’s traffic awareness system- the Prodigy Flight Deck with the SVS option will also display traffic on the PFDs in an accurate orientation of target aircraft’s altitude and bearing.
Further to the integrated flight-management-system-like controls for VHF communications and navigation gear- transponder and GPS- Garmin’s Prodigy Flight Deck for the Phenom 100 also provides the pilot with the capability to use WAAS/LPV instrument approaches among its advanced capabilities.
The Garmin GFC 700 three-axis digital autopilot is integrated into the Prodigy Flight Deck. Capable of working with the PW617F’s dual-channel FADEC- Prodigy provides automatic pitch and Mach trim- holding the jet at a pilot-set speed within a range also defined by the pilot.
Such automation and sophistication promises near seamless flight management from wheels up to wheels down.
Because of special conditions set by the FAA- the FAR 23 Phenom 100 will also provide the flight-deck occupants with fire detection and extinguishing systems normally required of FAR 25 aircraft. Environmental controls- pressurization- heat and cooling are also designed for easy control with the single-pilot operator in mind. Blended with the easy starting and precise control of the two PW617F engines through the FADEC system- Embraer believes the Phenom 100 will provide the single pilot with an operating environment optimized for safety and ease of control.
Praise- awards & customers
From all indications available- Embraer’s first clean-sheet-design business jet stands to set a new standard for VLJs. The Phenom 100 offers technology heretofore unavailable on even light jets.
The result is recognition from quarters such as the luxury-minded Robb Report's May 2008 edition Best of the Best in Business Jets award and an IDEA/Brasil Award for design. But awards on shelves don’t make programs successful – market acceptance does that- and in this area as well- the Phenom 100 is garnering its share of laurels. Reports from the company put the order total for both the Phenoms at approaching 800 (with no breakdown offered). But from the order reports published it’s apparent that Embraer’s littlest jet yet is more than holding its own in the Phenom order book. The company expects to deliver 10-15 jets by year’s end – and to be able to pump out Phenom 100s one after another with only nine days of work. And that means we can expect to see plenty of them on ramps and on the airways pretty quickly.
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