Embraer’s Phenom 300 enters flight-test phase

 - June 4, 2008, 5:30 AM

Embraer achieved two milestones on April 29, the first flight of the Phenom 300 light jet and the first time any airplane has made a first flight from Embraer’s private Unidade Gavião Peixoto Airport in Brazil. The Phenom 300 first flight was about three months ahead of schedule, according to Henrique Langenegger, vice president of programs, executive jets. At the controls were Capt. John Sevalho Corção and chief pilot Eduardo Alves Menini, assisted by flight-test engineer Jens Peter Theodor Geiger Wentz. The first flight lasted for one hour, 22 minutes.

About 15 minutes before takeoff, the approximately 1,000 employees at Embraer’s Gavião Peixoto facility joined president and CEO Frederico Curado, executive vice president Executive Jets Luís Carlos Affonso and Langenegger for the first flight. The pilots lifted off at 3:03 p.m. from Gavião Peixoto Airport’s Runway 2, into a slight crosswind caused by 13-knot winds at 350 degrees. Local temperature was warm, at ISA+19 (86 degrees F), but a cold front was about to sweep over the area. The first flight was fairly turbulent, Langenegger said, and included a climb to 19,000 feet and maximum speed of 220 knots. The pilots conducted tests of the Phenom 300’s roll spoilers, movable horizontal stabilizer, flight controls and systems and performed banking maneuvers, sideslips, single-engine simulations and speed reductions. The minimum speed flown on the first flight was about 20 percent above stall speed.

The Phenom 300 made its second flight  a week later, on Tuesday May 6. During that flight, the pilots took the Phenom 300 to 320 knots and 28,000 feet and exercised the flaps and landing gear and all other systems. Instead of landing back at Gavião Peixoto, the pilots flew to Embraer’s São José dos Campos headquarters and on the way they made two passes over Embraer’s engineering center at Eugênio de Melo so the 2,000 employees there (800 of whom work on the Phenom program) could see the new jet.

The Phenom 300 needed to be at São José dos Campos so engineers could conduct 10 days of ground vibration tests and flutter analysis to expand the jet’s flight envelope. Once those tests were done, the pilots could fly the Phenom 300 to the corners of its flight envelope, including testing and establishing Mmo, Vmo, stall speeds and high sideslip angles. These are critical steps in getting to the point where the aerodynamic configuration can be frozen, Langenegger said. Then Embraer can continue with the all-important certification flight testing.

The second Phenom 300 should be flying this month or next. The first model is used primarily for aerodynamic and performance testing while the second is for systems validation. Whatever changes are made to either the design or the systems will be incorporated in both, and they will be fully conforming to the final design. All of the Phenoms are built on production tooling, which helps avoid expensive changes later in the manufacturing process. Given the 930 hours of wind-tunnel testing already done on the Phenom 300 design, mostly at the Tsagi wind tunnel in Zhukovsky, Russia, Embraer is not expecting any surprises at this point. Minor aerodynamic changes, Langenegger said, could include addition of vortex generators or other small devices.

The first three Phenom 300s will fly about 1,400 hours for the certification program in preparation for entry-into-service in the second half of next year. These flights will include function and reliability, ground vibration, flying qualities, flutter, water spray and single-point refueling testing. A fourth Phenom 300 will carry on the program’s maturity campaign.

The $6.65 million (January 2005 $) single-pilot Phenom 300 offers seats for up to eight passengers, a 45,000-foot maximum altitude and Mach 0.78 maximum operating speed. Carrying six 200-pound occupants, the airplane has a range of 1,800 nm (NBAA IFR, 100-nm alternate). Two 3,200-pound-thrust Pratt & Whitney Canada PW535Es power the Phenom 300, which features Garmin G1000-based avionics.