Cessna, Embraer Vie for Dominance in Light, Midsize Market

 - February 4, 2012, 3:15 AM
In its standard configuration Embraer’s Legacy 450, left, has room for seven passengers, with an option for an eighth.

Spurred by sluggish demand for light and midsize jets and the threat from Brazil’s Embraer, Cessna has enlarged its midsize cabin cross-section and refreshed one of the lightest jets it builds. The new contenders were revealed last fall in the form of the 680A Latitude midsize and the M2 update of the CJ1+. They compete with, respectively, the Embraer Legacy 450 (slated for certification in late 2014 and service entry in early 2015) and the Phenom 100 (in service since 2009). Since Cessna fully acknowledges that the Embraer airplanes are the primary competitors for its new entrants, it seems timely to hold up the companies’ offerings for a preliminary comparison.

Cessna plans to fly the Latitude in mid-2014, with FAA approval following in mid-2015 and entry into service in the second half of 2015, a few months behind Embraer’s timetable for the Legacy 450, followed by EASA certification in the first half of 2016. The timetable for the M2 has the prototype flying before the end of next month and entering certification testing in the third quarter, for type approval in the second quarter next year and first deliveries in the fourth quarter.

L-Class Warfare: Latitude Takes On Legacy 450

The Latitude’s Sovereign roots show outside in the wings and empennage, but the interior of the newly enlarged and sleeked fuselage reveals a Garmin cockpit, 72-inch stand-up headroom in a flat-floor cabin and bigger windows higher up the fuselage for a less hunched view of the world. Outside, sleeker nose lofting, curved windshield panels and subtle 787-style wingtip treatment distinguish the new airplane. The Latitude’s list price of $14.995 million (2011 $) positions it between its $12.295 million XLS+ and $16.995 million Sovereign stablemates and comfortably below the $16.47 million (2012 $) Legacy 450.

A pair of Pratt & Whitney Canada PW306D turbofans, each delivering 5,700 pounds of thrust, will power the Latitude; the Legacy 450 gets a pair of Honeywell HTF7500Es, each producing 6,080 pounds of thrust. The new Citation and the Legacy 450 share the same 45,000-foot ceiling, and time to FL430 will be 23 minutes for the Cessna and 22 minutes for the Embraer. Along with its 72-inch aisle height and flat floor, the Latitude passenger cabin is more than 21 feet long, yielding one foot to the Embraer; the Cessna’s external unpressurized baggage capacity is 120 cu ft, but internal baggage capacity has yet to be decided. Standard seating in the Cessna accommodates nine passengers in a single-club arrangement with a forward two-place side-mounted couch facing the door; the Legacy offers seven seats as standard and eight with an optional side-facing divan for two up front.

In the Latitude’s cockpit, the Garmin G5000 avionics will include three 14-inch-diagonal partitioned liquid-crystal displays, four touch-control screens and a Garmin autopilot, much like the suite intended for the Citation Ten. The Legacy 450 will have a Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion suite with SVS, autothrottle and full FBW as standard and HGS and EVS as options, and it will also come with full fly-by-wire flight controls.

Flight controls on the Latitude remain fully mechanical (no fly-by-wire), which Cessna justifies by citing simplicity and swifter certification. Embraer is already paying a price for embracing the additional complexity of FBW: it had planned to fly the 500 by the end of last year, but the first 500 did not roll out until December 23 and the first flight has now slipped until the third quarter this year due to a software problem with the fly-by-wire flight control system’s remote electronic unit made by Parker Aerospace, according to Embraer. The delay pushes Legacy 500 certification to the second half of 2013, about a year later than planned, and service entry in early 2014. The Legacy 450’s milestone dates all follow the Legacy 500’s by one year.

Maximum takeoff weight for the Latitude is pegged at “just over 28,000 pounds” and for the Legacy 450 is undisclosed, and neither Cessna nor Embraer is revealing its airplane’s target empty weight yet.

Like its M2 stablemate, the Latitude will incorporate Cessna’s new Clairity fiber-optic cabin management system, developed in collaboration with Heads Up Technologies and controlled by passengers through smartphone apps. “It’s a smartphone talking to a smart airplane,” notes Cindy Halsey, v-p of interior design, engineering and development. Clairity manages on-board entertainment, interactive moving maps, flight information and Internet browsing. Cessna expresses confidence its cabins will be more appealing than those of the Embraers.

It was in 2008 that Embraer announced development of the $16.47 million Legacy 450 and $19.875 million Legacy 500 (both 2012 $), which share the same wings, empennage and six-foot stand-up flat-floor cabin cross-section. The 500’s fuselage will be about six feet longer than that of the shorter-range 450. Both Embraers will have an externally serviced aft vacuum lavatory. The 500 will fly 2,800 nm with eight passengers, at Mach 0.80 and NBAA IFR reserves–500 nm more than the 450 at long-range cruise speed. Embraer cut the first metal for the Legacy 450 and Legacy 500 on April 20, 2010, at its headquarters in São Jose dos Campos, Brazil. The first component to be manufactured was part of the forward fuselage, to which the radome, radar and glideslope antenna are attached.

The Legacy 450 will be equipped with Honeywell’s high-definition, touchscreen Ovation Select cabin management system (CMS). It can interface with high-speed satellite communications and a variety of wired and wireless consumer electronics, including iPods, MP3 players, AppleTV and gaming systems. As on its smaller Phenom jets, Embraer collaborated with BMW DesignworksUSA on styling the Legacy 450 and 500 cabin.

The Legacy 450 cabin will feature a refreshment center located in the left-hand side of the entrance area, opposite the standard seventh seat or the optional two-place divan. The refreshment center features several stowage compartments, a working surface, an ice drawer, a trash compartment, an optional microwave or convection oven, soda cans compartment and coffee brewer or espresso maker. Cessna said the Latitude will have a wet galley with hot and cold beverage service, china and crystal storage, ice storage and an option for an oven (likely both microwave and convection).

The Legacy 450’s flat-floor cabin accommodates seven or eight passengers, depending on whether the customer stays with the standard seven-seats layout or opts for the two-place divan. Half-club pairs of single seats can be rotated back-to-back and then recline together to form a sleeping surface. Both the Legacy 450 and Legacy 500 share the same lavatory design and size, featuring a solid door, vanity, basin and vacuum toilet. As an option, the lavatory seat can be approved for occupancy during takeoff and landing to increase seating capacity.

M2 Takes on Phenom 100

Cessna announced the M2 in late September last year as a new twinjet derivative to serve as a step-up for Mustang owners or as a higher entry-level Citation between the Mustang and CJ2+. The M2 revives the CJ1+ airframe but with a Garmin G3000 avionics suite, 1,965-pound-thrust Fadec Williams FJ44-1AP-21 engines, subtle winglets and, compared with its predecessor, higher-quality interior furnishings and greater speed. Perhaps more important, however, the M2 lops about $800,000 off what the CJ1+ cost when Cessna quit building that airplane last year. The M2 carries a price tag of $4.195 million, $200,000 north of the Phenom 100’s $3.995 million. According to M2 business manager Brian Rohloff, the cost savings stemmed mostly from switching to a Garmin suite (in place of the CJ1+’s Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21) and in negotiating with Williams on the price of the FJ44s. For certification and pilot type ratings, the M2 retains the type designation C525. Cessna says it will fly the prototype in the first quarter of this year, followed by FAA certification in the second quarter of next year and entry into service in the fourth quarter.

The Phenom 100, powered by a pair of P&WC PW617F-Es each producing 1,695 pounds of static thrust, entered service early in 2009 and has proved popular not only with private owners but also as one of the smallest jets offered for fractional ownership and charter. As the numbers in the chart below show, the Cessna and Embraer airplanes are closely matched, and for the owner-pilots who tend to buy this sort of airplane, the deciding factor will likely be how they compare on the stick.

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