Early operators of Embraer’s $8.14 million Phenom 300 light jet are praising the aircraft’s speed, fuel efficiency, range and short landing distances, but they say it still has some teething issues that need to be resolved with regard to spurious crew alerting system (CAS) messages, full flaps, cabin seating and lavatory lighting. Embraer delivered the first U.S.-based Phenom 300 on December 31.
“It delivers all the things Embraer said it would,” said Phenom 300 owner Terry Vance, the retired motorcycle drag racing champion who now runs several motorcycle-related ventures. He took delivery of the second U.S.-based 300 at the end of January and had flown in the aircraft for 70 hours through the end of March. Vance said the 300 has the potential to become an iconic aircraft. “From a customer satisfaction standpoint, Embraer has just made the ’55 Chevy. I think the 300 might be a home run.”
Embraer delivered the first U.S. Phenom 300 to Executive Flight Service (EFS), which is operating the aircraft on behalf of a Texas-based customer and recently placed it on a Part 135 certificate. EFS’s sister company, Executive AirShare, is selling fractional shares in the aircraft and has six on order. EFS vice president of operations Adam Letts has logged approximately 80 hours in the aircraft as pilot-in-command. He said Embraer is “about 98 percent of the way to the perfect airplane.”
Vance and Letts agree that the 300 is a solid performer and a game-changer, with more passenger leg room and 20 percent less fuel burn than a Beechjet, a sustained 4,000-fpm rate of climb, and hefty brakes that slow the aircraft fast with stops in as little as 2,200 feet on the runway. Operators said the stopping power was impressive even though the aircraft is not equipped with thrust reversers and the full flaps setting is currently limited to flap position three (26 degrees). That limitation is temporary and came about as the result of certification testing, according to Claudio Camelier, Embraer’s vice president for market intelligence, corporate jets. “We have not certified full flaps [flaps 4, 37 degrees] for the airplane,” he said. “We expect to certify it for full flaps and steep approach together.”
A temporary detent in the airplane currently limits the full flaps to flaps 3. Once the airplane is certified to flaps 4, that detent will be removed from all existing airplanes. The change will not require a new flap lever, Camelier said. The limitation was imposed on the aircraft’s current certification when it was discovered during certification flight testing that spoiler float could occur under certain system failures–most notably flight control hydraulic and hydraulic pump failures–at flaps 4.
Camelier said that Embraer was working on a fix that likely will include changes to the spoiler system’s actuators, but that there was not a firm timetable for implementing it. He noted that the aircraft exceeds its initial landing distance performance design goals by more than 300 feet, even with the flaps 3 limitation, and emphasized that there have been no instances of spoiler float under actual operational conditions.
However, operators told AIN that the flap 3 limitation, combined with the 300’s slick wing, makes approaches into places such as Aspen a bit tricky. “You’ve got to really plan ahead,” said Letts. “At the top of the approach at power idle going into Aspen or other high-terrain areas we are building up too much speed.” Letts is confident that flaps 4 certification will knock the ref speed down at least five knots and solve the problem, but conversely he cautions that pilots need to be quick with flap retraction on climb-out due to the 300’s swift takeoff performance. “You can rip right through the 180-knot flap retraction speed if you are not careful,” he said.
Camelier said the remaining issues with the airplane are relatively small and include software updates aimed at eliminating spurious CAS messages and exploring the possibility of installing separate lavatory lighting controls. Currently, the cabin ceiling lighting is on one circuit and illuminates both the cabin and the lavatory.
Vance and Letts also voiced minor complaints about the aircraft’s in-flight entertainment (IFE) architecture and cabin seating. Currently, each passenger position has jacks for noise-canceling headsets, but the IFE input jacks are located only in the cockpit. Vance said the cabin seating was “adequate,” but that the seats need improved armrests. Letts called the seat adjustment functions “a little stiff and a little ratchety. They are not as glassy smooth as one would like them to be, but they work.” Overall, Letts praised the cabin as “comfortable, quiet and spacious. Passengers really like it.” He said the airplane is delivering fast trip times, including Dallas to Calgary in 3:18 and Seattle to Fort Worth in 3:16, and that it consistently delivers 430 knots at FL450 and good fuel efficiency.
Vance has also seen speeds of 453 knots at FL450. “It is a little thirsty on the climb because it is really hauling, but it is pretty efficient and I am happy with that.”
Executive AirShare Looks To Accelerate Phenom 300 Deliveries
A Kansas City-based fractional company with six Phenom 300s on order is looking to accelerate its deliveries based on positive customer reaction to the aircraft. Executive AirShare (EAS) CEO Keith Plumb told AIN that the company is scheduled to receive the first Phenom 300 for its fractional program during next year’s first quarter but is “trying to do something a little sooner” based on customer response, experience with its current fleet of eight smaller Phenom 100s, and the performance of a 300 managed and operated by its sister company, Executive Flight Service (EFS).
Plumb said customers began committing to shares in the 300 last fall when Embraer flew in an aircraft for a company open house and were particularly impressed by the aircraft’s ramp presence and advertised high/hot performance, which the company has since validated with its managed 300. “We wanted to be able to take off from Toluca [Mexico] on a hot summer day with seven people and bring them back to Kansas City,” Plumb said. “The 300 did it with flying colors.”
EAS’s customer base is predominantly regional along the I-35 corridor from Kansas through Texas, but Plumb expects the addition of the 300s to allow the company to “expand our geographic service area” to the coasts; however, he said the company’s initial demand for the 300 is expected to be in Texas, largely for energy industry customers. He expects to average six to seven owners per aircraft on the 300 and estimates the hourly occupied charge to be $1,700.