Embraer expects to cut metal for new Legacys in early ‘10

 - October 14, 2009, 5:50 AM

Several years ago, Brazilian manufacturer Embraer announced its intent to become “a major player” in the business aviation industry. With certification of the Phenom 100 compact very light jet last year and the pending certification of the larger Phenom 300 small-cabin light jet before the end of this year, the company is moving closer to that industry role.

Now, even in the face of a grim global economy, executive v-p of Embraer Executive Jets Luis Carlos Affonso says the company remains on pace to add two more airplanes–the Legacy 450 and Legacy 500–creating a complete line of executive airplanes, from the Phenom 100 very light jet to the Lineage 1000 bizliner.

More than 500 employees at the company’s São José dos Campos facilities are at work and anticipating the initial cutting of metal early next year. The first aircraft, the larger Legacy 500, is expected to fly in early 2011 and receive certification in 2012, while the Legacy 450 is scheduled to make its first flight in 2012 and win approval in 2013.

Although the company is proceeding with both programs, it is with certain caution. According to Affonso, market evolution and global economic conditions are being carefully observed. “It may be necessary to make some adjustments to changing conditions,” he said.

Meanwhile, he added, letters of intent with refundable deposits that have been taken since the NBAA Convention in 2007 are now being converted and added to “a good number” of firm orders with nonrefundable deposits. “And with deliveries of the 500 not due to begin before 2012,” he said, “we’re not seeing cancellations.”
At the Latin American Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition in August, Embraer presented a full-size mockup of the Legacy 500 for the first time. Both the large-cabin Legacy 500 and super-midsize cabin 450 share a flat-floor cabin with six feet of headroom.

Embraer has selected Honeywell’s Ovation Select cabin management system for both airplanes. Ovation is a system that places emphasis on seamless in-flight connectivity whether passengers are using a BlackBerry or laptop, an iPod or watching a high-definition Blu-ray movie. Ovation Select will also host the optional JetMap3 moving-map application with real-time news, weather, sports and business updates.

The company is also heavily promoting its full fly-by-wire technology and side-stick controls. Rockwell Collins’s Pro Line Fusion is the avionics suite of choice. Honeywell’s HTF7500E engine, said Affonso, “meets Embraer’s requirements in terms of fuel consumption, ease of maintenance and low operating costs, as well as reduced noise and pollution emissions.”

While the only “flight” hours to date have been at the controls of a simulator, Affonso said engineers have made no significant changes to the new Legacy jets, either during the joint definition phase or as a result of customer input.
The $18.4 million large-cabin Legacy 500 will carry up to nine passengers, has a range of 3,000 nm with four passengers and a max cruise speed of Mach 0.82.
The $15.25 million super-midsize Legacy 450 is also being designed for up to nine passengers, a similar max cruise speed of Mach 0.82, but with a range of 2,300 nm with four passengers.

Embraer has consistently forecast a slow industry recovery and expressed doubts that deliveries will return to anything like 2008 levels before 2012. But as with other manufacturers, the Brazilian OEM is aware that that is the future, and the Legacy programs are a major part of that future. Meanwhile, admitted Affonso, “Given some very challenging times, it is a big investment.”