With MSJ and MLJ launch, Embraer expands bizjet line

 - April 28, 2008, 6:22 AM

Embraer is fulfilling its April 2005 promise “to invest heavily in business aviation,” with the formal launch of two new midsize jets that fit between the Phenom 300 and Legacy 600. The still-un-named jets, introduced as concepts at last year’s NBAA Convention, are for now called the midsize jet (MSJ) and mid-light jet (MLJ). Embraer’s board of directors approved formal launch of the two-jet program on March 28.

The MSJ and MLJ share a common fuselage cross-section with six-foot stand-up headroom, Honeywell HTF7500-E turbofans, Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion avionics and Embraer’s first full closed-loop fly-by-wire flight control system. This commonality will help keep the cost of the program to $750 million during the next six years, according to Luis Carlos Affonso, executive vice president for executive jets. Embraer expects the FAA to grant a common pilot type rating for the MSJ and MLJ as it did for the company’s E170/190 series airliners.

“We have been talking about this segment and whether we should develop new products for it,” Affonso said. Midsize jets account for about 20 percent of the total business jet market, he added, and that equates to 2,800 jets worth $38 billion during the next 10 years. “Our goal is 20- to 30-percent market share for these two products,” he said.

The MSJ will seat two pilots and up to 10 passengers, while the MLJ will fit two pilots and up to eight passengers. MSJ performance includes 3,000-nm range (NBAA IFR reserves, 200-nm alternate) with four passengers or 2,800 nm with eight passengers at Mach 0.80 and takeoff field length of 4,600 feet (sea level, ISA, mtow). Embraer’s range maps show the MSJ able to carry eight passengers from Los Angeles to Honolulu or Panama City and Riyadh to Geneva at Mach 0.80.

The MLJ’s range is 2,300 nm with four passengers and 2,200 with eight passengers at Mach 0.78 and takeoff field length 4,000 feet. From Riyadh, the MLJ with four passengers and at an unspecified long-range cruise speed can fly to Vienna and it can make it from Los Angeles to Quebec. The range maps use “85 percent annual winds,” according to Embraer.

The jets share a high-speed cruise of Mach 0.82; maximum payload of 2,800 pounds and payload with maximum fuel of 1,600 pounds; maximum altitude of 45,000 feet; and 6,000-foot maximum cabin altitude.

The Honeywell HTF7500-E will produce 40 percent lower nitrogen oxide emissions and a lower noise signature than ICAO standards and offer lower specific fuel consumption than other engines in its thrust class. “This is one of the most reliable engines in the industry,” said Honeywell chairman and CEO David Cote. In the Bombardier Challenger 300, which entered service four years ago, 360 HTF7000s have accumulated more than 365,000 hours of operation with 99.95-percent dispatch reliability, according to Honeywell. The Embraer MSJ and MLJ engine contract with Honeywell includes nacelles and thrust reversers.

Cabin Options
Embraer surveyed more than 5,000 potential customers with plans for 15 different jets to see what they wanted, and the feedback customers provided was that they wanted faster jets and some with smaller cabins. The top speed of one of the proposed jets was Mach 0.85. “The airplanes you see today are the best tradeoff,” said Affonso, “the best airplanes our customers want.”

The MSJ and MLJ are entering a crowded market and will compete against Cessna’s XLS+ and Sovereign, Bombardier’s all-composite Learjet 85 and the Learjet 60XR, Gulfstream’s G150 and Hawker Beechcraft’s Hawker 750 and 900XP. Embraer wouldn’t reveal the cabin volume of the two new jets, but their cross-sections are larger than the Hawker 4000’s and similar to the Challenger 300’s. The MSJ and MLJ will be built with about 20 percent composite materials. “Our conclusion is that a composite fuselage and wing would not bring the best value to this segment,” said Affonso.

The MSJ and MLJ interior layouts, designed by BMW Group Designworks USA, offer a variety of options. Most MSJ layouts include a full galley opposite the cabin entry door and both jets offer an enclosed lavatory, but the 10-seat layout replaces the forward galley with a two-seat divan. The MLJ doesn’t have room for the galley, and three of the four proposed layouts offer seven seats, while one has eight seats using a two-place divan. In both airplanes, baggage can be stowed in an in-cabin area aft of the lavatory, and there is also a “climatized” baggage compartment in the aft fuselage. Both cabins are six feet 10 inches wide and six feet from the flat floor to the overhead.

From the front-on view, it will be hard to tell the two jets apart. They share the same 66-foot, five-inch wingspan, but the MSJ is longer at 67 feet four inches versus the MLJ’s 62 feet 10 inches. From the left side, window counters will see that the MSJ has seven passenger windows versus five in the MLJ. The smaller MLJ is actually one inch taller than the MSJ, at 22 feet, two inches versus 22 feet, one inch, respectively. The MSJ’s empennage spans slightly more than one foot more.

Embraer has accepted letters of intent for more than 100 MSJs and MLJs (secured by $90,000 and $70,000 deposits, respectively), but the company will wait to reveal the names and model designations and prices of the new jets until this month’s EBACE Convention, where it will begin taking orders.

The MSJ and MLJ fill a niche in Embraer’s business jet offerings, which until now have not served the midsize jet market. One remaining hole may be for a long-range large jet, and Embraer filings with the U.S. Patent and Trademark office suggest that this could be the next Embraer business jet.

Embraer has reserved the designations Legacy 400, 500 and 700. Because the MSJ and MLJ are smaller than the Legacy 600, it could be assumed that the two new jets will be dubbed the Legacy 500 and 400 models. A long-range larger jet might be a candidate for the Legacy 700 moniker. Embraer has made a strong effort in branding the Phenom, Legacy and Lineage models, Affonso said, and wants to continue using the convention of a brand name followed by a number. “I’m giving a hint,” he said.

Advanced Avionics
Unlike their competitors, the MSJ and MLJ will have the latest closed-loop fly-by-wire flight control system, operated by sidesticks mounted on each side of the spacious cockpit. This will be Embraer’s first closed-loop fly-by-wire system, which allows engineers to take full advantage of fly-by-wire’s abilities to enhance control and performance as well as provide full flight envelope protection.

The E170/190/Lineage models use an open-loop system in which elevators, rudder and roll spoilers are fly-by-wire controlled, but ailerons are controlled by conventional hydraulics, and pilots use yokes instead of sidesticks. The E170/ 190/Lineage has angle-of-attack but not full flight envelope protection. The MSJ and MLJ will be the smallest business jets with a full fly-by-wire system and the Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion avionics suite with synthetic vision system a standard feature, plus optional head-up display and enhanced-vision system. “This will lead to improved performance,” Affonso said, “and is a big differentiator for Embraer. This is a technology that is here to stay. Any modern airplane should be fly-by-wire.”

However, added MSJ/MLJ program manager Maurício de Almeida, “It shouldn’t be fly-by-wire just to be fly-by-wire.” The advanced system must add value to the airplane, in terms of handling, a smooth ride, performance and safety. “This is a breakthrough for this market,” he said. The new fly-by-wire system also promises to be lighter than conventional flight controls, even though the MSJ/MLJ will need three hydraulic systems for redundancy. Embraer is still finalizing the vendor for the flight control system, he said.

The contract for the Pro Line Fusion avionics for the MSJ and MLJ is the first time Embraer has specified an integrated Rockwell Collins system on one of its programs. “This aircraft is going to have features unprecedented for its class,” said Clay Jones, Rockwell Collins chairman, president and CEO. “We have developed an amazingly close relationship with the Embraer team.”

In a departure from how it builds the Phenoms completely in-house, Embraer is negotiating with risk-sharing partners to help build the MSJ and MLJ. While Affonso didn’t identify possible partners, he did say that a partner will build the jets’ fuselages. Embraer has worked with risk-sharing partners since the inception of the ERJ program, but it won’t necessarily be working with the same companies on the MSJ/MLJ, he said.

“We don’t need to vertically integrate everything,” Affonso said. “It’s good to balance risk and opportunity.” By working with risk-sharing partners, Embraer can launch more new airplanes, he said, “and address the market more rapidly.” On the Phenom program, it made more sense to build most of the airplanes in-house because they are smaller and the cost of transporting assemblies from a partner would have eaten up any savings. Embraer evaluates these costs every time it launches a new program. And whichever company wins the bid for the MSJ/MLJ fuselages, he added, “will be a long-term partner. They will have to [help] support it for another 30 years.”

The MSJ will enter service first, in the second half of 2012, followed about a year later by the MLJ. The timing works so that customers who buy Phenom 300s after they enter service next year will be ready to move into an MSJ or MLJ after they are certified. “We are happy to have bridged the gap between the Phenom and the Legacy [600],” Affonso said.