Embraer Phenom 100 earns its license to fly

 - December 29, 2008, 6:52 AM

Christmas came early for Embraer. The Brazilian manufacturer’s first clean-sheet business aircraft, the Phenom 100 light jet, was certified on December 9 by the Agência Nacional de Aviação Civil of Brazil and three days later by the FAA, bringing Embraer a step closer to its goal of becoming “a major player” in the business aviation market.

The announcement came a little more than three years after the program launch and 18 months after the first flight. Certification had originally been expected in the spring of last year but was delayed by compliance issues related primarily to the anti-icing system and flap actuation software.

Customer deliveries began the week after FAA certification at Embraer’s São Jose dos Campos facilities. Embraer anticipates European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) approval in the spring, in time for initial deliveries to European customers.

Until certification of the Phenom 100, the company’s only business aircraft was the Legacy 600, an executive variant of the ERJ 135 regional jet. Embraer was expecting certification and delivery of the first Lineage 1000, a derivative of the larger E190 airliner, late last month or early this month.

During the Phenom 100 certification program, Embraer said the aircraft required “minimal modifications”–aerodynamic wing fences to allow lower approach and takeoff speeds, a dorsal fin enlargement and a ventral fin. According to Embraer Executive Jets executive v-p Luis Carlos Affonso, the modifications were not necessary to allow the aircraft to meet its projected performance numbers. Rather, they were incorporated “to make a good airplane better.”

“The Phenom 100 has not only met all original specification targets but has also surpassed several performance goals,” noted Affonso.

The range, originally predicted to be 1,160 nm, has been increased to 1,178 nm with four occupants (NBAA IFR reserves, 100-nm alternate). An optional enhanced takeoff performance package was included in the aircraft certification, resulting in a 3,125-foot takeoff field length at mtow. The standard takeoff field length is 3,400 feet, as initially specified. Takeoff performance from airports with restrictions due to high temperatures and/or high elevations has surpassed the design target, permitting up to 300 nm of additional range.

Another performance improvement was in the landing distance, 2,669 feet at max landing weight and 301 feet shorter than originally specified. Finally, with an accompanying increase in engine thrust from 1,615 pounds to 1,695 pounds, the high-speed cruise was increased to 390 knots from 380.

Starting in the cockpit, the avionics suite features a Garmin Prodigy flight deck based on Garmin’s all-glass, fully integrated G1000. There are two primary flight displays and one multifunction display, all of which are interchangeable. Composite information is presented in 12-inch, high-definition active matrix LCDs. The system combines all primary flight, communication, navigation, terrain, traffic, weather, engine instrumentation and crew-alert data.

The Garmin GFC700 autopilot provides pitch trim and speed trim and roll as well as pitch and yaw control. Also included is dual integrated attitude and heading reference and dual integrated RVSM-compliant digital air data computers.

The Phenom 100 also comes equipped with mode-S transponder for traffic information, a terrain awareness system, an XM satellite weather datalink, horizontal- and vertical-scan digital weather radar and dual radio communications.

With two Pratt & Whitney Canada PW617F turbofans providing 1,615 pounds of thrust each, the Phenom 100 has an Mmo of Mach 0.70 and max ceiling of 41,000 feet. The max range of 1,178 nm allows nonstop flight between such city pairs as New York/West Palm Beach, Los Angeles/Dallas and London/Naples.

The aircraft has a 10,472-pound mtow and the trailing-link main gear features brake-by-wire and an anti-skid system.

Embraer claims an economic life for the Phenom 100 of 35,000 cycles, which it promotes as double that of comparable aircraft.

As of Jan. 5, 2009, the Phenom 100 will be priced at $3.18 million for FAA certification and $3.25 million for ANAC certification, both based on January 2005 economic conditions for a baseline configuration. Brought to 2009 economic conditions, the price will be $3.6 million for FAA certification and $3.68 million for ANAC and EASA certifications, subject to escalation until delivery.

The company lists a total number of orders for the Phenom 100 and the larger Phenom 300, and it does not break out sales of the two separate aircraft. But sources at Embraer have said they expect that Phenom 100s will account for two-thirds of deliveries by 2010.

Judging by past announcements, multiple-aircraft orders make up a considerable bulk of the order book. They include an early order by Zurich-based air taxi start-up JetBird for 56 Phenom 100s, with options for another 44. JetBird, according to founder Domhnal Slattery, expects to launch service with the Phenom in the second quarter of this year. Other multi-ship orders have come from an undisclosed European leasing agent (10 aircraft); Kansas City-based Executive AirShare (seven airplanes and options for another 10); Eagle Creek Aviation Services in Indianapolis (12 airplanes); Gold Aviation Services of Fort Lauderdale (five airplanes and options for another 10); Magnum Jet of Houston (50 and options for 50 more); fractional operator Avantair of St. Petersburg, Fla. (20 aircraft); and Wondair, a fractional and charter operator in Valencia, Spain (24 airplanes and options for an additional 10).

Production and Interiors in Brazil and the U.S.

Wings and the fuselage section of both the Phenom 100 and Phenom 300 will be produced at the Embraer plant in Botucatu and shipped to the facility in Gavião Peixoto for assembly. Interior completion work will also be done at Gavião Peixoto. Embraer expects to be producing six Phenom 100s a month at Botucato early this year, ramping up to as many as 17 a month later in the year.

According to Embraer, North America is the largest single market for the Phenom 100 and Phenom 300. This has prompted an expansion of facilities in the U.S., where the company recently broke ground in Melbourne, Fla., on an assembly and interior finish facility. The plant will be up and running by 2010 and by 2011 some 200 employees will be turning out as many as eight aircraft (100s and 300s) a month.

The Phenom 100 has been among the largest airplanes in the very light jet category, although this past fall Embraer began referring to it as an entry-level jet. The all-aluminum twinjet has a cabin that can accommodate up to six passengers and an enclosed lavatory. The cabin is the creative product of BMW Group’s DesignworksUSA and features as standard LED lighting. It offers 4 feet 11 inches of headroom and is 11 feet long and 5 feet 1 inch wide. The combined cargo capacity totals 55 cu ft, including an aft compartment large enough for skis or golf clubs. The interior configuration comes in three options with leather reclining seats. Each seat is equipped with a laptop power outlet and passenger/pilot communication capability. Typical seating is for four, but an air-taxi layout provides seating for six.

Phenom 100 Support and Service

Two years ago, Embraer looked at its projected growth and launched an effort to create a network to provide support and service for what it expected will be a rapidly growing fleet worldwide.

The service and support program represents a $100 million investment by Embraer and includes a global parts inventory distribution network, customer contact center and maintenance tracking system.

According to Embraer, the new parts distribution center, operated by UPS Supply Chain Solutions in Louisville, Ky., is “certified, operational and stocked with a complete inventory of repairable, expendable and structural parts for both the Phenom 100 and Phenom 300.”

In October, Embraer cut the ribbon to open its third company-owned service center in the U.S. The $17 million, 55,500-sq-ft facility will provide support for the Phenom 100; the Phenom 300, for which certification is expected in the spring; the newly launched Legacy 450 and Legacy 500; the Legacy 600, of which more than 150 are already in service; and the Lineage 1000, the first of which is to be delivered this month and for which the company holds orders for some 20 copies.

The new location supplements U.S. centers already operating in Windsor Locks, Conn.; and Phoenix, as well as a European site in Paris. In addition to the company-owned centers, Embraer has established a worldwide network of 38 approved independent service centers.

A Phenom 100 training program, launched as a joint venture with Canadian simulator training services provider CAE, is fully operational at the first training center in Fort Worth, Texas.

Technical training began in August. Pilot training began in September and in November the first Phenom 100 customers successfully passed the FAA practical test.