A Legacy in the making: Embraer inks hefty order

 - May 27, 2008, 9:23 AM

The whole idea of a business trip is to do some business, and that’s exactly what Embraer’s Legacy business jet did last month, when it first touched down on U.S. soil and rolled up to the NBAA static display on December 11. It was greeted as few new business jets ever have been–by Chicago-based Indigo Air placing a firm order for 25 and taking options for 50 more, together worth some $1.1 billion (dependent on Indigo’s successfully obtaining financing). Added to sales from Phoenix-based charter operator Swift Aviation, the order book now holds firm orders for 73 copies of the Legacy and options on another 94.

The Legacy arrived from Brazil, complete with fresh Brazilian CTA certification received only the day before. The new order arrived from  Indigo, which plans to configure the aircraft with 18-to 19-seat first-class cabins for initial operations between Chicago Midway Airport and Teterboro (N.J.) and, later, for more frequent flights to other destinations. (Atlanta  DeKalb-Peachtree Airport, a major southern business aviation hub, has been mentioned as a likely candidate for the expanded service.)    

Although the Legacy made its international debut at the Dubai Air Show in November, its handlers saved its first North American appearance for NBAA 2001. To get there from Brazil, it put its Mach 0.80 speed and 3,200-nm range to good use, flying from São José dos Campos, Brazil, to the NBAA static display at New Orleans Lakefront Airport.

Former corporate pilot Sam Hill, vice chairman of Embraer Aircraft of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said that the Legacy will next tackle certification by the FAA and then by the JAA. U.S. certification will be sought first, he said, because the first airplanes delivered outside Brazil will come to the U.S., followed by the first delivery to a European customer in June.

Completed price of a Legacy with what Hill described as a “very nice interior” comes in at $19.8 million. Even though the Legacy on display at NBAA 2001 was a company prototype, the exterior and interior were designed by actual customers. The prototype is merely representative of what is available. “It certainly is one customer’s design, not Embraer’s,” he said.

Embraer had the interior completion done because the company type certifies the entire airplane, rather than delivering a green version and then getting a supplemental type certificate. “We had to have the airplane totally complete before we could get a type certificate, even though it’s a prototype,” Hill told AIN. When it comes to total value to the customer, we have control over the quality and the makeup of the interior, as opposed to allowing it to go to an STC process, where somebody else would have control over the quality of the product.”

But Hill said that the customer can modify the design and Embraer is open to install whatever the customer wants.    

Embraer claims the Legacy’s cabin to be nearly 40 percent larger than those of its closest competitors, which Hill listed as the Hawker Horizon, Continental, Falcon 50EX, Citation X and Gulfstream 200.

The widespread regional airline use of the platform enhances the support for the business jet version, Hill maintained. (The Legacy is a corporate version of the ERJ-135, which is in turn a truncated variant of the ERJ-145.) With a long list of authorized service centers throughout the world and $200 million in spares around the globe, Embraer wants potential Legacy buyers to understand that they can tap into an already well established worldwide support base.

The Legacy is powered by two Rolls-Royce AE3007A1P turbofans, the same powerplant that propels the ERJ-145. With a 48,479-lb mtow, it has an NBAA IFR range of 3,200 nm with 10 passengers. The Legacy burns an average of 2,110 pph of fuel, and needs at least 5,600 ft of runway to take off (sl, ISA) for a trip from New York to Los Angeles. With full fuel and 10 passengers, the Legacy requires 6,400 ft of runway for takeoff to fly its longest design mission of 3,200 nm.

Embraer expects to assemble 18 Legacies next year and hopes its NBAA appearance will cause even further swelling of its order book. With the completion of a new $150 million plant at Gaviao Peixo, roughly 250 nm northwest of Embraer’s Brazilian manufacturing center at São José dos Campos, in 2004, that production rate could accelerate to between 36 and 48 a year.