Embraer embarks on next phase of 450/500 program

 - July 1, 2009, 5:41 AM

Embraer engineers have begun the next phase in development of the Legacy 450 midlight and Legacy 500 midsize jets, having completed the joint definition phase.
This phase consisted of finalizing the product definition and working with Brazil’s Agência Nacional de Aviação Civil to establish certification requirements. Now the more than 500 engineers on the 450/500 program are busy planning for the first metal cuts, which will likely involve long lead-time parts for major structural elements of the wing spars and skins, according to Claudio Camelier, Embraer’s vice president of marketing intelligence, executive jets. The next step is releasing engineering drawings for these parts, which should take place in the second half of this year, then cutting metal to make these parts early next year. The Legacy 500 should fly about a year later, in early 2011.

Both the Legacy 500 and 450 remain on track for entry into service in 2012 and 2013 respectively, said Mauricio Almeida, vice president of programs, executive jets.
Last year, Embraer held its first man-machine interface advisory board meeting with customers, and another is planned in mid-July or August to provide feedback on customer suggestions from the earlier meeting and solicit additional input.

The two new Legacy jets will feature Embraer’s first full fly-by-wire flight control system. A test rig for evaluating systems such as the fly-by-wire flight controls is under construction and should begin operating in the next few months. Engineers have already run the fly-by-wire system control laws through extensive simulations on computers. Engineers have made no significant changes to the two new Legacy jets, either during the joint definition phase or as a result of customer input. “We had some adjustments on the design of seats,” said Camelier, “and parts of the interior. The major systems are pretty similar to what has been considered before.”

While Embraer will manufacture most of the new Legacy airframe, Belgium’s Sonaca is building the rear fuselage. Another supplier will manufacture the center fuselage, although Embraer has not yet chosen this vendor. Manufacture and assembly of the Legacy 450 and 500 will take place either at Embraer’s São José dos Campos or Gavião Peixoto facilities.

Embraer has had no order cancellations for the new Legacy program, according to Almeida, although sales activity has slowed since last October and November. “By 2012, 2013 when these airplanes enter service, the market will already be in a state of recovery, so it’s good timing. It’s a modern airplane with new technologies, things that bring a lot of value to the customers, so we believe that the airplane is well positioned for the market recovery.”

In addition to fly-by-wire flight controls, the two new Legacy jets feature Rockwell Collins’s new Fusion avionics suite and new Honeywell HTF7500E engines. For the first time in an Embraer jet, pilots will use a sidestick to operate the fly-by-wire flight controls. Because the controls are a closed-loop fly-by-wire system, Embraer engineers can add features such as flight envelope protection and enhanced performance while saving weight on autopilot servos, cables and hydraulic systems.

The Legacy 500 will carry four passengers 3,000 nm and eight passengers 2,800 nm, while the 450 will fly 2,300 nm with four and 2,200 nm with eight passengers.