FLIGHTCHECK

Embraer Phenom 100: $3.6 million, M.70, FL 410, 1178 nm, seats 2+4

Light bizjet embodies latest trends in design and avionics to achieve superior performance.

By Peter Berendsen
ATP/CFII. Boeing 747, MD11


Customer deliveries of the entry-level Phenom 100, the smallest of Embraer's family of executive jets, began earlier this year.

It was a sunny, hazy tropical morning when I met Embraer Mgr, Executive Jets Daniel Bachmann at SJK (São José dos Campos SP, Brazil), about 2 hours by car from the center of the São Paulo metropolis.

The Brazilian aircraft manufacturer had invited Professional Pilot to its factory to fly the Phenom 100 which was certified by FAA in Dec 2008. Over coffee and croissants Executive Jets Sales Engineer Carlos Filho introduced this new entry-level business jet.

Just a few years ago the Eclipse was the only representative in the very light jet (VLJ) segment. Meanwhile, seriousness has returned to this market and Cessna (with the Citation Mustang) and Embraer (with the Phenom 100) now offer professionally developed and manufactured small jets.

Embraer chose to center the design of the Phenom 100 around the cabin, because flight times of up to 4 hours with 2 pilots and 4 passengers require an acceptable and comfortable stay on board.

Basics

For about US$3.6 million (compared with $2.7 million for the Mustang), the purchaser gets a cabin that is optimized for 4 passengers with the so-called "ovalite" cross-section. Phenom 100's cabin is a little wider than it is high and offers optimized use of space.

This design was created together with BMW DesignworksUSA. The cabin is 4 ft 11in high including the recessed center aisle, 5 ft 1 in wide and 11 ft 0 in long, resulting in a cabin volume (passenger only) of 282 cu ft. All the way in the back there is a separate flushing lavatory, which is actually usable and even has 2 windows.

Outside of the pressure vessel are 2 luggage compartments for a total of 419 lbs and a volume of 67 cu ft. It is even possible to transport a total of 8 people. For this the lavatory seat has to be certified for takeoff and landing and the wardrobe in the entry area has to be removed and a further jump seat installed.

Peter Berendsen (foreground) discusses the Prodigy flightdeck (G1000 platform) with Embraer engineers at the company's avionics testbed.

With 4 people on board, Phenom 100 range is 1178 nm with NBAA IFR reserves and long-range cruise speed. This allows you to cover the whole eastern US seaboard from the New York area, including the Bahamas, or the entire west coast and Rocky Mountains from San Francisco or Los Angeles.

Maximum certified flight level is 41,000 ft, and maximum cruising speed at Mach 0.70 or 390 KTAS. After the briefing we went to the avionics testbed for the Prodigy glass cockpit. At this experimental station in a fully climate-controlled room, Embraer engineers developed the Phenom 100's Prodigy cockpit (based on the Garmin G1000).

As the Phenom 100 is certified for single-pilot operations, at least in the US, it was necessary to develop an advanced glass cockpit that would reduce workload for the pilot(s) as much as possible and provide good situational awareness.

Three 12-inch displays are used for 2 primary flight displays (PFDs) and 1 multifunction display (MFD). The PFDs offer a very large artificial horizon, which is certainly an advantage for occasional private instrument pilots.

There are also the usual flight instruments and a small map inset. The center MFD shows engine instruments as well as map and system displays. Since the G1000 was originally developed for single-engine aircraft such as the Cessna 172, the system integrates several functions in the display unit itself, which are controlled by multifunction keys on the display's frame.

Embraer engineers made great efforts to make a professional tool out of this glass cockpit solution which was originally developed for entry-level GA aircraft. Because of the great human factors experience that Embraer has designing flightdecks for transport category aircraft, this effort was largely successful, although the Prodigy cockpit cannot hide its origins.

The autopilot is controlled through the autoflight panel in the glareshield. Here there is a nice feature called cruise speed control (CSC), which regulates the engine rpm within certain limits through the FADECs to maintain a constant cruise speed without actually moving the throttles.

You might almost call it an autothrottle. Electronic checklists and Jeppcharts may also be displayed on the MFD as an option.

Technology and safety

After intensive discussions with the young and very motivated development engineers about the Prodigy cockpit, we had lunch in the guest room of Embraer's dining facility.

There we met Eloy Bayer Neto, a retired VARIG MD11 captain who now works for Embraer and would fly the Phenom 100 with me.

Berendsen examines the Phenom 100. The aircraft sits high on the ramp, giving it the appearance of a full-size executive jet.

The discussion returned to modern glass cockpits and how important it was to be able to overlay information such as weather and traffic onto the map display. At this point I asked Bachmann about the collision between an Embraer Legacy and a Gol Boeing 737 in Sep 2006 over the Amazon jungle.

All 154 passengers and crew of the 737 died in this tragic midair. The 7 occupants of the Legacy (2 pilots, 5 pax) survived after the pilots of the heavily damaged Legacy were able to land the aircraft at a military airfield in the jungle.

The Brazilian government made the American pilots of the Legacy responsible for the midair, probably to divert attention from the inadequate ATC infrastructure of Brazilian airspace. It got very quiet around the table when Bachmann mentioned that he was one of the 7 survivors.

After lunch we went to the ramp where Phenom 100 PP-XOH was waiting for us. Her 2 integral wing tanks were already refueled and she weighed in at just over 9500 lbs for departure. With a length of 42 ft 1 in, a wingspan of 40 ft 4 in and a height of 14 ft 3 in, the Phenom 100 makes an impressive appearance on the ramp.

The open airstair looked stable and well constructed, and the 4 large cabin windows on each side of the aircraft give the impression of a grown-up executive jet. After a short walk around the aircraft we went into the cabin, which was comfortably cooled by a vapor cycle machine. At this time power was provided by a GPU.

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