New Embraer Phenom 100E: Surer Stops, More Comfortable Cabin

 - August 6, 2014, 1:45 AM
Embraer has delivered more than 300 copies of its eight-seat Phenom 100/100E and the airplane has found a ready market among small companies, charter operators and individuals.

Embraer announced an upgraded version of the Phenom 100 entry-level light jet last year and customers are beginning to take delivery of the new 100E. The aircraft introduces multifunction spoilers and upgraded interior options. Base price is $4.161 million, but options such as premium seats, a solid lavatory door and an extra passenger seat/kibitzer that faces sideways across from the cabin entry door can quickly take the price past $4.4 million, putting it in line with Cessna’s new M2 with a few options.

The 100 has enjoyed remarkable success since receiving certification in late 2008, with more than 300 delivered through June. Fast and spacious for its class–390 knots top speed and now room for up to eight occupants–the aircraft resonates with smaller companies, charter operators and individual owners.

Improvements to Brake System and Spoilers

However, problems with the aircraft’s brake-by-wire system and errant brake warning CAS (crew alerting system) messages led to several runway overrun accidents and runway incidents such as blown tires. The absence of thrust reversers and perceived deficiencies in the aircraft’s “lift-dump” aerodynamic braking was a source of consistent nervousness for pilots flying the airplane, particularly onto contaminated runways. Embraer immediately sought to remedy the brake-by-wire problems with a combination of a software fix, redesigned brake control unit and altering the pedal position and feel to bring it in line with the feedback pilots get with conventional mechanical/hydraulic brakes.

The most recent off-the-runway episode happened last October when a pilot new to the aircraft went off the pavement in Wichita after the aircraft began oscillating with application of full braking after touchdown, became uncontrollable and exited the runway. An investigation did not find any anomalies with the braking system. More troubling was an incident that occurred in April last year in Meridian, Miss. (KMEI). While landing on a dry runway, the pilot reported brake action similar to that encountered while hydroplaning and slid 2,800 feet before stopping on a pair of blown tires. Examination revealed the tires were bald-spotted, a wear pattern consistent with the failure of the anti-lock braking system. Technicians removed the brake control unit and sent it to the NTSB for analysis.

The new spoilers on the 100E are designed to make descents more manageable and give the 100E better manners on the ground. Officially, Embraer says they make no difference in the 100E’s required stopping distance–still published as 2,722 feet–but they do to varying degrees. Juarez Santos, who flies a 100E for a private Brazilian food company, told AIN that the new spoilers enhance aircraft maneuverability and improve braking effectiveness on the ground while enabling more rapid descents. “They’ve raised the aircraft’s versatility,” he said. Santos has more than four years and 1,000 hours of flight time in Phenom 100s. He flies about 25 hours a month and his typical missions are about 700 nm with three to four passengers aboard, often in Brazil’s interior where terrain and weather collide to produce challenging visibility and heavy precipitation.

More Cabin Comforts

While the original 100’s interior, developed in collaboration with BMW DesignWorksUSA, drew praise for a innovations such as making the 100’s four-foot-11-inch-tall and five-foot-one-inch-diameter cabin look and feel bigger via the clever use of upscale automotive-style accents, LED lighting and single-piece sidewalls and headliners, some early customers complained about the noise level of the two-zone environmental control system (ECS) fans and seat comfort. There were also limited choices when it came to the selection of interior fabrics and colors.

The ECS fans were hushed some time ago, but on the 100E Embraer is now offering premium slide, swivel and recline single executive seats, similar to those aboard the larger Phenom 300, as an extra-cost option. A significant new number of fabric and color combinations, now 11 in all, are being offered on the 100E at no additional charge. They include amber, bronzite, crystal, emerald, mystic, pearl, ruby, sapphire, smokey quartz, sunstone and tiffany. Real wood veneer is standard and customers can choose from a variety of enhanced cabinetry offerings, including a new galley cabinet (in place of the onboard forward closet or side-facing passenger seat) that includes an optional hot jug, ice drawer and beverage and glassware storage.

Santos thinks the cabin remains the aircraft’s strongest feature. “The space between the seats allows for a comfortable flight.”