Brazilian manufacturer Embraer gave NBAA a flying start this afternoon with the unveiling of not one but two new concept jets – a mid-size and mid-light – in a bid to fill the product gap between the Phenom 300 light jet and the super mid-size Legacy 600.

The new twinjets are aimed at competing in price with the popular eight- to nine-passenger business jets while offering performance and amenities one step above the direct competitors in terms of cost. The Brazilian airframer has been successful with the same formula on other jets, most recently with its Phenoms.

“The Phenom 100 is slightly more expensive than the Cessna Mustang, but it delivers the value of a Cessna CJ1,” says Luis Carlos Affonso, executive vice-president for executive aviation.

According to the 2008 Flight Pocket Guide to Business Aircraft, competitors for the proposed “mid-light” entrant include the super light Bombardier Learjet 45XR and Cessna Citation XLS as well as the new Hawker 750 – aircraft in the $11.5-12 million price range. For the mid-size sector, Embraer will face the likes of the Bombardier Learjet 60XR, Cessna Citation Sovereign, Gulfstream G150 and Hawker 900XP, aircraft that cost from $13 to $16 million.

Affonso says the two new aircraft will be members of a “family”, with the mid-light aircraft being a smaller version of the mid-size model. The concept is different than what was done for the Phenoms – both are cleansheet designs – but similar to what Hawker Beechcraft has undergone with the Hawker 750 and 900XP models, the offspring of the venerable Hawker 800 line.

Depending on the reaction at NBAA this week, where Embraer has a cabin mock-up of the mid-size version, officials will seek Embraer board of directors’ approval to move forward with the project. “If we launch, we will launch both,” says Affonso. If the program advances, Affonso says first deliveries could come as soon as 2012.
The company has not revealed prices for the two aircraft.

One dilemma facing the company is what to call the new aircraft. The mid-light version, would most appropriately take the Phenom name, but the mid-size would fit into the Legacy nomenclature. “ But as family of aircraft we have to decide which one of the two to go for,” says Affonso, adding that the decision would be made after board approval for a formal launch. However, it is reported that the names Legacy 400 and Legacy 500 have been registered.

The Super Light aircraft is planned to have a 6ft (1.8m) cabin height and a 2,200nm (4,074km) range with eight passengers on board flying at M0.78.

“Our mid-size is designed as a true coast to coast 2,800nm at M0.8 with eight passengers, not four passengers, with 99% winds so we can do it every day with eight people. Our research told us that many times customers buy bigger more expensive jets because the mid-size cannot reliably or consistently make the coast to coast mission. Our proposal is built around size, a very nice cabin and true coast to coast performance.”

Affonso and his colleagues are preparing for a busy NBAA to meet engine manufacturers, avionics providers and other vendors.  “We are looking at the supplier base from a broad prospective. We will see Pratt &Whitney, Rolls-Royce and Honeywell. And we would talk to others if they had engines in this current class,” Affonso says.

Affonso says Embraer has not yet decided whether to take on risk-sharing partners in the program. The only vendor signed so far is BMW Design-Works USA , which Embraer previously selected to design the cockpit and cabin interior concepts for the Phenom jets.

Affonso says it is likely Embraer will outsource major components of the new design, following the model put in place for the Legacy 600, which has its wings built by Gamesa in Spain and fin and tailplane assemblies built by Enaer in Chile.

One major outstanding issue is the structural composition. “We have issued a request for information for the potential structural partners and suppliers. But we have not yet defined the technologies. We are talking to both composites and sheet metal people. No decision has been made.

The mock-up of the likely Legacy 500 can be seen on the Embraer booth (3737).

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Source: Flight Daily News