Certification setbacks have postponed Embraer’s plans to deliver the first Legacy business jet to launch customer Swift Aviation. The Phoenix-based charter company now hopes to take delivery of its first airplane by mid-December, immediately after Embraer gains its expected FAA approvals. The Brazilian manufacturer also plans to deliver a Legacy to an anonymous domestic customer around the same time. JAA certification, originally planned for September, has slipped to early next year. Brazilian approval, first slated for the end of July, will not likely occur until the beginning of next month.
Embraer had prepared to fly the first Legacy, an executive-configured, 3,200-nm-range version of the ERJ-135 regional jet, from its factory in São José dos Campos, Brazil, to New Orleans for a ceremonial presentation to Swift Aviation. Embraer Aircraft Corp. vice chairman Sam Hill said the company expected to sign new customers for the program at NBAA. In an effort to salvage the lost sales opportunity, Embraer invited all those potential buyers to a reception later this month at its offices in West Palm Beach, Fla. To date, the Legacy has drawn firm orders for 48 jets, and options for a further 44. Swift, the largest customer, has placed a firm order for 25 of the $19.8 million (complete) jets, and holds options for another 25.
Hill, assigned to head Embraer’s business jet division before the company launched the Legacy during last year’s Farnborough Air Show, would not attribute the certification delay to one specific problem, although he indirectly betrayed the culpability of some internal bottlenecks. “We don’t point fingers, but as you can imagine everyone’s overloaded with all the programs, and we’re asking for patience from both certification authorities right now,” said Hill. “Because of the start-stop of the NBAA show we probably lost three weeks of flight testing…We’re back into it full bore, but it took a lot more time than we anticipated for the show effort.”
Although Hill said the airplane’s testing program has uncovered few performance surprises, Embraer had to increase the airplane’s mtow by roughly 440 lb to maintain the airplane’s interior weight allowance of 3,968 lb. The increased weight raises the airplane’s mtow to an estimated 48,920 lb, but Hill insists the change did not affect its 0.80 Mmo or other performance figures. Derived from the 1,700-nm ERJ-135 regional airliner, the Legacy gets its extra 1,500 nm of range from an additional 7,000 lb of fuel capacity in its belly and aft tanks. Other modifications include the addition of winglets and other minor aerodynamic changes to improve the airplane’s short-field performance.
Powered by the same Rolls-Royce AE3007-A1P turbofans used in the 50-seat ERJ-145, the new jet burns an average of 2,110 lb of fuel per hour and needs at least 5,600 ft of runway to take off (sl, ISA) for a trip from New York to Los Angeles. However, with full fuel and 10 passengers, the Legacy requires 6,400 ft of runway for takeoff to fly its longest mission of 3,200 nm. Embraer specifications show a considerably shorter landing field length–3,820 ft–for a “typical” mission with 10 passengers.
Hill said Embraer plans to deliver five Legacy jets this year, followed by 18 next year and 24 each following year in which demand dictates. Although Embraer installs all the interiors in standard executive jets at its plant in São José dos Campos, customers may opt for completion by an outside contractor. The Nordam Group performs the interior integration for the baseline jets, and ships the components to Brazil for installation.
Hill said Embraer intends to participate fully in the rescheduled NBAA Convention, now set for December 12 to 14 in New Orleans. “We are determined that life will go on and commerce will continue,” said Hill in reference to the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. “We have mixed emotions at Embraer. We’re very, very saddened by the tragedy and our hearts really go out to all the victims’ families. But I have to admit, the interest for corporate airplanes has really picked up in the weeks following the attacks.”