Embraer’s Phenom program accelerating

 - June 1, 2007, 10:26 AM

Embraer’s May 2005 announcement that the company was launching two new business aircraft–the Phenom 100 very light jet and the Phenom 300 light jet–certainly raised some eyebrows. The company garnered even more attention a year later when it revealed its plans to build the Lineage 1000, a business-jet version of its E190 airliner.

Until two years ago, the company’s only entrant in the business aviation market was the Legacy 600, an executive version of the ERJ 135 regional airliner. But with the launch of the Phenom series and the Lineage, Embraer clearly signaled its intent to become a major player in the industry, and both programs are well under way.

The first Phenom 100 is being assembled at São Jose dos Campos and its first flight is imminent. Also at São Jose dos Campos, the company began cutting metal for the Phenom 300 in March this year and anticipates a first flight in the middle of next year. Embraer so far has sold four Lineage 1000s, the first of which will be delivered this summer to DeCrane Aerospace independent completion center PATS in Georgetown, Del., for interior finish.

In the midst of its new projects, in March this year Embraer delivered its 100th Legacy. The $24.7 million twinjet went to ABS Jets in the Czech Republic and was the fourth to be delivered in that country. Marian Jancarik, managing director of ABS, described the airplane as “the ideal tool for operations in Europe,” because it allows nonstop flights throughout Europe and to most Middle East countries.

Luis Carlos Affonso, executive v-p of Embraer Executive Jets, described the event as “confirmation of the remarkable acceptance that the jet has enjoyed, building a 13.6-percent market share in five years.”

Improvements To Legacy Include Larger Cabin
Affonso describes the Legacy as “still in its ascendancy.” The “next generation” is due to enter service next year with a roomier cabin that features a new two-inch drop-aisle (which will increase the headroom to six feet) and more slender overhead valances. New seats, said Affonso, are not only more comfortable, but will now recline to a full-flat position with no uncomfortable gaps between seat sections. The standard 15-inch LCD monitor has been replaced by a 17-inch widescreen version, positioned slightly higher for better viewing. A standard MP3 player interface is also new.

Embraer has completely redesigned the Legacy galley, creating easier access to the appliances, optional space for such luxuries as specialty coffee makers, a larger potable-water reservoir and pull-out sections to provide more counter space. A new thermal/acoustic package is reported to reduce average cabin noise by three decibels.

Embraer has been talking with vendors with the goal of introducing an enhanced vision system for the cockpit, but Affonso said the company chose to make increased cabin comfort a higher priority “for now.” At this point, Legacy deliveries are averaging “a little more than three a month,” he said.

The company delivered 27 Legacies last year and expects to surpass 30 this year, delivering “maybe as many as 37.”

The total order backlog for the company’s executive jets is now valued at nearly $2 billion.

Even as the first three Phenom 100s slated for the certification program are being completed at the main São Jose dos Campos plant, Embraer is implementing a multi-site strategy for the Phenom programs. The Botucatu plant, which is being expanded by nearly 96,000 sq ft and reconfigured to accommodate the Phenom stage-one assembly lines, will be used for pre-assembly.

At Gaviao Peixoto, a 128,800-sq-ft building will house administration, engineering, receiving and final-assembly facilities. Work on a new paint shop is to be complete by year-end.

The expansion projects to meet Embraer’s executive aircraft expectations represent a $50 million investment, including construction, equipment, machinery and tooling. Some $15 million alone has been invested in auto-riveting machinery similar to that being used on the company’s airline programs.

In March, the wing and fuselage for the $2.85 million Phenom 100 were mated at the São Jose dos Campos plant. In April and May, flight systems and landing gear were added and an initial run-up was conducted on the two Pratt & Whitney Canada PW617F turbofans. Assembly is also progressing on the second and third certification program aircraft. The company expects the production rate to stabilize at 120 to 150 aircraft a year by 2009.

According to Affonso, the $2.85 million price is good only through the end of this month; it will jump to $2.98 million on July 1.

Embraer is convinced that with the Phenom 300 it is building an aircraft unique in its class. It will have an externally serviced lavatory, an airstair built into the cabin door itself, trailing-link landing gear with an anti-skid brake-by-wire system and carbon brakes, and single-point refueling to shorten turn-around time. And despite its relatively small size, the Phenom 300 will have separate cabin and cockpit temperature zones.

Phenom 300 Customers Will Get ‘More Than They Paid For’
According to Affonso, Phenom 300 customers are going to get considerably more than they paid for. At last month’s European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (EBACE), Embraer announced a 14-inch increase in cabin length that allows a more flexible cabin configuration, including a two-seat side-facing divan opposite the cabin door. Because the airplane itself is also 14 inches longer, he said, there is no reduction in the 66-cu-ft aft baggage compartment. The cabin height and width remain unchanged. More important, he said, all the original projected performance figures remain the same. The Phenom 300 is expected to enter service in mid-2009.

Total orders for the Phenom series have surpassed 400 aircraft, and the next available delivery date is “well into 2011.” While the price at this point is $6.65 million, look for an increase as the date of the first flight in mid-2008 approaches.

Also at EBACE, Embraer introduced a range of concept interior views of its Lineage 1000. The $40.95 million bizliner (typically equipped) occupies a market niche between the larger Boeing Business Jet (BBJ) and the smaller Bombardier Global Express XRS, and the company is marketing the airplane as a less costly alternative to both.

A Global XRS typically equipped at the basic level is priced at $48.9 million. A green BBJ sells for $51 million (for airplanes now being sold into 2011), and BBJ interiors, usually highly individualized, can add another $8 to $17 million. Auxiliary fuel tanks give the Lineage 1000 a range of 4,200 nm, about 2,000 nm more than the E190 airliner. The company is installing the tanks in Brazil, where it is also doing the exterior paint.

Affonso said Embraer considered increasing the range of the Lineage, but that would have required a new wing to carry additional fuel, “and in the end, it would have been a $55 million airplane.” The company sees a market for about 100 Lineage 1000s and intends to sell about three or four airplanes a year; its order book is now close to 10 aircraft.

Promoting the airplane’s niche characteristics, Embraer points out that the Lineage meets requirements for operations at a number of high-use business aviation airports that are closed to larger bizliners. Those airports include such popular destinations as London City Airport in the UK; Pitkin County Airport in Aspen, Colo.; and Teterboro Airport in New Jersey. The Lineage has a listed mtow of 121,500 pounds, a wingspan of 98 feet 3 inches and meets Stage 4 noise requirements.

Nine-Day Cycle Time for Phenom 100 Completion
As for cabin completions, Embraer is continuing to out-source the work to Nordam at the U.S. company’s new interior cabinetry facility near São Jose dos Campos. The facility was built in partnership with Brazilian aviation services provider JetStar. Embraer, however, plans to handle all aspects of the Phenom 100 and Phenom 300 interiors in-house at a new shop in Gaviao Peixoto.

The cabin of the Phenom 100 is expected to require one day to install. Including modifications, exterior paint and final flight tests, the completion cycle is expected to take no more than nine days, said Embraer.

With the expected expansion of a worldwide fleet of Embraer business jets, the company has announced corresponding expansion of ground support services. Three new Embraer-authorized service centers are to be added by the middle of next year, bringing the worldwide total to 38 authorized centers in addition to seven existing Embraer centers.

The most recent authorized centers serving the entire Embraer executive aircraft line are ABS Jets in the Czech Republic and Hawker Pacific in Singapore. Embraer has not yet identified the third.

By year-end, the number of field engineering support teams will expand from 12 to 21–with two more in the U.S., three in Europe, one in the People’s Republic of China and one in Singapore.

Four training locations for the Phenom 100 and Phenom 300 have been identified. The first will be up and running in Dallas next year, followed by a European center at Burgess Hill in the UK in 2009, a second U.S. center in 2010 and a third U.S. center in 2012.

Affonso sees a continuing demand for business aircraft, pointing out that the factors propelling the current trend are unlikely to change over the coming decade. Those factors are an expanded acceptance of executive jets as a productivity tool; continued hassle at airports driving customer dissatisfaction with the airlines; new business models bridging the price gap between airline full-fare prices and on-demand charter prices; new aircraft launches; and the introduction of technologically advanced very light jets.

He also noted, “Globally, premium passengers are underserved [as] 73 percent of traffic in the U.S. goes through hubs, and 90 percent of delays are at main hubs.”
Affonso said Embraer expects that over the next decade, 50 percent of deliveries by unit will be very light jets, “about half of the 1,115 executive jets forecast for delivery in the decade.”

As for Embraer’s role in this future, Affonso said it is “to become a major player in the business aviation market by 2015.” That includes, he added, a 15-percent market share for the Legacy 600, a 30-percent share for the Phenom line and a 20-percent share for the Lineage 1000.

Embraer’s long-term strategy, said Affonso, is simple. “Plan for tomorrow, but don’t forget to take care of today.”

Many Phenom Buyers Are First-time Airplane Owners

With total orders for its Phenom 100 very light jet and Phenom 300 light jet now surpassing 400 aircraft, Embraer has discovered some interesting market demographics. According to Luis Carlos Affonso, executive v-p of Embraer Executive Jets:

• there is global interest, with orders from 24 countries;

• as expected, the U.S. is the largest initial market, but the European market has also been good, as have South America and India;

• a “surprising number of customers” have never owned an airplane;

• the percent of owner-flown customers is lower than anticipated–about 20 percent;

• while Phenom 100s are being purchased to replace aging turboprop and piston aircraft, many are replacing older-technology business jets;