Phenomenal! - Embraer shoots for 30% of VLJ market with Phenom 100

Geneva
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Embraer intends to grab 30% of the very light jet (VLJ) market over the next 10 years and has produced its Phenom 100 with that aim in mind. The aircraft has proven so popular that the company’s orderbooks are full until 2010 and it has had to increase its production capacity to satisfy demand. As an added incentive for customers ordering before the end of May, the Brazilian manufacturer has extended the launch price of $2.75 million to 31 May, with the price going up to $2.85 million on 1 June. The company says it wants to give its European customers the chance to order before the launch period ends.

Embraer plans to build 100 of the six-seat aircraft in 2009 and may have to expand its VLJ final assembly plant in Gavião Peixoto, Brazil. “We designed an aircraft for the air taxi market,” says Luís Carlos Affonso, senior vice–president, executive aviation.

Listened

“Our vision was to create a single-pilot aircraft for an owner operator. We listened to our customers for that specific market.” Although the Phenom is the highest priced of the new VLJs, the manufacturer says it is aiming for the “best in class”’ market position. The company’s survey of 3,200 operators revealed that comfort, docile flying performance, next-generation engines, low operating costs, aircraft design driven by human factors, high usage and high availability top customers’ lists of desirable features. It looks like the research is paying off. “We sold a Phenom 100 without any sales support at an equestrian exhibition. A customer just saw the unmanned mock-up, left his card and bought one,” says Marco Tulio Pellegrini, vice-president, market intelligence.

Embraer estimates operating costs for the aircraft to be around $440 per flight hour, and $700 per flight hour for the bigger Phenom 300. The 100 will be powered by two 1,615lb-thrust (7kN) Pratt & Whitney Canada PW617Fs, carry up to eight people and have an NBAA IFR range of 2,150km (1,160nm) (with four people). With a maximum cruise speed of Mach 0.70 and a ceiling of 41,000ft (12,500m), the jet is also equipped for short-field take-off performance.

Design

The detailed design and flight-test campaign is completed and the first metal cut is due next month. First flight is set for the second quarter next year, with first deliveries in mid-2008. The 300 has a 1,130m take-off field length and 3,200lb of thrust. It flies at Mach 0.78 at a maximum ceiling of 45,000ft for an NBAA IFR range of 3,330km with six people on board and is expected to be certificated by mid-2009.

Ergonomics lie at the heart of BMW Designwork’s cabin design. Drawn up for a 1.82m (5ft 11in)-tall individual, seats are positioned to allow for stretching and windows are placed so that passengers do not have to bend their necks to see outside. The 100 is the only VLJ to have a fully enclosed toilet and the cabin is pressurised to 6,000ft at 41,000ft. Storage space is a huge issue for customers and both the 100 and 300 were developed to accommodate large amounts of baggage. The 100 has 1.56m3 (55ft3) of storage space, compared with the Eclipse 500’s 0.73m3, the Adam 700’s 0.709m3 and the Cessna Mustang’s 0.766m3. The 300 comes in at 2.15m3, as opposed to the Hawker 400XP’s 0.73m3, the Citation Encore’s 0.794m3 and the CJ3’s 1.41m3.

Embraer worked closely with pilots to create the Phenom cockpits. Human factors drive the design, aimed at minimising “head down” time. The large Garmin-based Prodigy avionics screen has a display area of 1,425cm2 (221in2). In the event of primary means failure, the primary flight display and integrated standby instrument system (ISIS) have similar icons in case the pilot has to switch suddenly from one to the other. Key air and attitude data come from independent and dissimilar sources and displays. The integrated engine indication and crew alerting system can show three times more messages than a discrete alert panel; these messages also reliably identify the causes of problems. Displays are logical and can cascade information, which is less stressful to absorb. There are electronic checklists and synoptic pages giving electrical, environmental, ice protection and fuel information.

Other safety features include brake by wire and an anti-skid system, a constantly updated moving map containing geo-referenced information relative to the aircraft and weather data that can be accessed even on the ground. Embraer has also reduced the number of pilot tasks, and consequently workload for many phases of flight.

Minimise

Maintenance plans are individually tailored to minimise loss of revenue and the aircraft are designed to keep flying as much as possible. Both Phenoms are virtually filament free with a single grease specification, standard screw types and low fuel tank intervention.  Components can be replaced from outside fuel tanks without de-fuelling. Additionally, all main electronics are housed in a benign environment inside the pressurised area.

Embraer is so confident that its Phenoms will take a large slice of the executive market that it has developed a new in-house catch phrase: “We’re here to stay”.

Phenom 100 and 300 mock-ups are on display at Embraer’s stand.