As I stepped aboard PR-LGV on Friday, the first Embraer Legacy 450 with a full interior, it was hard not to compare it to the iconic Hawker business jet series. Both have a cabin width and height of about six feet and seat two pilots and seven to nine passengers, though my host at São Paulo’s Campo de Marte Airport–Embraer Executive Jets president and CEO Marco Túlio Pellegrini–reminded me that the 450 is “much, much more modern.”
And he’s right–the Legacy has fly-by-wire controls and brakes, Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion avionics, autothrottles, enhanced- and synthetic-vision systems, compact Collins HGS-3500 head-up display and a Honeywell Ovation Select cabin management system, not to mention a sleek interior and uncluttered flight deck. There are also no ram’s horn yokes in the $17 million Legacy 450; instead there are sidestick controls for each of the pilots. “To get this kind of technology previously, you would have had to spend about $65 million,” Pellegrini said, referring to the ultra-long-range, fly-by-wire Gulfstream G650.
On the inside, the Legacy 450 appears to be a midsize business jet, although by takeoff weight it falls within the upper echelons of the light jet category (Embraer calls it a “mid-light” jet). While this causes some confusion as to what category the aircraft is in, the Legacy 450 continues Embraer’s hallmark of bringing attributes from larger category aircraft into the next category down.
To experience the qualities of the new jet first-hand, Pellegrini invited me to be the first aviation journalist to fly aboard the Embraer Legacy 450. So I quickly strapped myself into a seat across from him, and the pilots–demonstrator/instructor pilot Eloy Bayer Neto and test pilot Miguel Ãngelo Furlan–closed the airstair door, then started up the Honeywell HTF7500E engines.
It quickly became apparent that the Legacy 450 cabin is extremely quiet, as Pellegrini pointed out–in a normal voice level–some more cabin features as we taxied to the runway. On the ground the aircraft seemed sure-footed, handling the bumpy taxiways at Campo de Marte with ease. Braking was crisp and clean, not jerky.
As we taxied into position and the pilots spooled up the engines to takeoff thrust, Pellegrini continued talking in a normal voice and I had no trouble hearing him. In fact, the Legacy 450’s cabin noise level at full power while rolling down the runway for takeoff is far quieter than the road noise in my Chrylser minivan at highway speeds.
Liftoff and climbout were smooth and we quickly reached our 5,000-foot clearance altitude to fly on a VFR corridor to Embraer’s headquarters in nearby São José dos Campos. Despite some light turbulence, the twinjet was very stable during the 18-minute flight.
The approach into São José dos Campos Regional Airport was flawless, and we touched down and stopped in about 3,000 feet using little more than the anti-skid carbon brakes, which were commanding but certainly not grabby.
After a two-hour tour of Embraer’s headquarters and aircraft assembly lines, I found myself back in the Legacy’s cabin for another short flight to bring the aircraft here to Congonhas Airport for LABACE. Legacy 450/500 standard pilot Sydney V. de M. Rodrigues, who took the left seat on this leg next to Furlan, asked if I was up to do a max performance takeoff from São José dos Campos and a maximum performance landing at Congonhas. I obliged and Rodrigues commented that I’d be in “for quite a ride.”
After startup and taxi, the pilots lined up the Legacy at the edge of the approach end of Runway 15, applied full brakes and then full power. At brake release, the aircraft lurched forward, pushing me firmly into the seat. Despite hot and high conditions, we lifted off in 4,200 feet and climbed out with an impressive 35-degree deck angle, with a resultant 6,000-fpm climb rate. It didn’t take long for us to level off at 8,000 feet before descending to 6,000 feet to fly another VFR corridor to Congonhas.
The 20-minute flight provided a great view of the beaches at Santos before the approach into Congonhas. As we neared landing, I tightened my seatbelt a bit to prepare for the maximum performance landing. At touchdown, the pilots applied full brakes, spoilers and thrust reversers. Even though we quickly decelerated, it was quite smooth and the Legacy 450 maintained exceptional directional control–it didn’t sway side to side at all.
Though my flights were brief, the Legacy 450 is an impressive aircraft compared with other light and midsize business jets I’ve flown on previously. Embraer appears to have a real winner with the Legacy 450.