Operator flies Embraer Legacy 500 out of Reno NV base.
By Brent Bundy
Phoenix Police Officer-Pilot
AS350, AW119, Cessna 210/182/172
Then he looked for the safest, most advanced super-midsize jet available, and he bought an Embraer Legacy 500. This combination proved to be a winner for C&M Premier.
New beginnings, new personnel
For many years, C&M Premier has conducted its flight operations, CNM, out of RNO (Reno-Tahoe Intl, NV). While never dissatisfied with his business jet choices over the years, in 2013 the owner began the process of revitalizing the flight department.
The first step was to find someone who could help locate the best aircraft for the mission and the right personnel to keep things running smoothly. That was accomplished when CNM found Chief Pilot Brian Hurley.
As a young boy, Hurley would spend many a day longingly watching the planes at HAO (Hamilton OH). “My dad told me that, when I was only 6 years old, we were at the airport and I said, ‘That’s what I’m going to do!’” He may not personally recall that conversation with his father, but he never lost the memories of his first exposure to aviation.
Hurley’s job out of college did not satisfy him, so he looked toward aviation. “I went back to HAO and began flight lessons. I earned my private pilot and instrument ratings, and I was hooked,” he recalls. Having quit his dead-end job, he began pumping fuel at LUK (Lunken, Cincinnati OH).
Knowing that he wanted to continue down the path of flying for a living, Hurley soon moved to Columbus OH to work for PDQ Air Service as a line technician. His move to Columbus had an end goal, which was to join bank check delivery company US Check as a pilot.
“Everybody I knew in aviation was telling me to look to US Check to begin my flying career,” says Hurley. In his free time, when not fueling planes, Hurley acquired his commercial and multi-engine ratings. A week after completion, he had an interview with US Check and was hired under the company’s Second In Command program with only 300 hours in his logbook.
While building his way to the required 1200 hours for captain status, Hurley worked 7 days a week, flying during the day and pumping gas at night. After earning his pilot in command, Hurley was sent off to TEB (Teterboro NJ) for his first US Check assignment.
“That was quite an eye-opener as a brand-new pilot flying in the busy airspaces around New York City,” he remembers. After just one month in Teterboro, he was transferred to Hartford CT, where he would spend 8 months flying up and down the east coast.
Jet engine qualifications
Hurley was transferred back to LUK in 1998, where he started flying jet time in the right seat of Learjet 25s and 35s. This involved flying a regular night-time scheduled run from Charlotte NC to Columbus OH, Denver CO, and Burbank CA, returning to Charlotte via Columbus.
A year later he was awarded a captain position in Columbus, covering runs that needed filling. After 2 months, Hurley realized he missed flying out west.
Another wish came true when he received a newly opened spot in Reno NV. This lasted for 5 years until he received competing offers for a corporate position and a chance with JetBlue.
Looking for some Part 121 experience to help his career, he chose JetBlue. This meant commuting to New York until he won a post in Long Beach. Now, with some airline time on his resume, he turned his eye to the corporate world. Hurley was hired as a captain by slot machine maker IGT in Reno.
Flying 2 Piaggio P.180s gave him his first exposure to Part 91 operations. “The quality of life was an amazing difference. It was the dream job I had been waiting for,” he recalls. Unfortunately, that dream crashed in the 2008 recession. After being furloughed, Hurley was out of work for nearly a year before dipping his toes into emergency medical service work.
This was followed by his first chief pilot post flying another Piaggio out of ODO (Odessa TX). “It was a great experience because I was doing everything except the budgets. I loved it,” he adds. This lasted for 2.5 years until he made his way back to Reno when he was hired as chief pilot at CNM in late 2013.
The team comes together
When Hurley came on board, C&M Premier owned a single-pilot Beechcraft Premier IA. Within 3 years, the owner decided to upgrade to a larger, more modern aircraft. For Hurley, that meant the need to add another pilot to the crew, and it didn’t take long to find just the right fit with Captain Steve Delius.
Not only did Delius meet the requirements, but the 2 would soon discover just how similar their career paths had been. For Delius, it all began when he would ride his bike to the nearby airport to watch the planes.
A product of southern California, Delius’s adventure in aviation began at FUL (Fullerton CA), where he experienced his first flight at 5 years old.
“A family friend took me flying in a small Cessna. To this day, I remember being fascinated,” Delius recollects. This encounter would lead to taking up the sport of flying gliders in the high deserts of California. He earned his private pilot license on his 18th birthday, but he had to push flying to the back burner for a while.
Delius would go on to earn a living outside of aviation as he became an automotive master mechanic for Mercedes-Benz, although he did continue the endeavor by attaining his instrument and multi-engine ratings. Delius’s first paid flying job was for his car dealership’s owner.
“My boss had a Piper Seneca, but he wasn’t a pilot, so he hired me to fly it,” he states. During this same period, he also became a flight instructor and got involved with the aviation program at Cypress College when he returned for additional schooling. It was then that he had an epiphany, much like Hurley had.
“When I finished my college courses, I hit a wall. I was frustrated with my job. I was doing well financially, but I wasn’t happy.” Delius left his secure, well-paying mechanic position to dive into the often-unsure world of aviation. Mirroring Hurley, he soon found himself flying small twin-engine airplanes to deliver bank checks around the southwest US.
After building some hours, a friend pointed him to a freight position with Reliant Air at YIP (Willow Run MI), where he would log his first jet time in Dassault Falcon 20s. Delius would stay with Reliant for 5 years, accumulating several thousand hours while moving between Ypsilanti, Memphis, and San Antonio.
“I met my wife and got married in San Antonio. While I was on my honeymoon, the company went bankrupt and reorganized!” This unfortunate turn of events would result in his move to Reno, directly across the ramp from Hurley, who was also flying freight. This lasted for a year until the company closed its doors for good.
After 6 months without a job, Delius was alerted to a new fractional jet company opening in, of all places, Hurley’s old stomping grounds of Cleveland OH. The company was Flight Options, and Delius soon found himself flying in their Citation III program while still living in Reno.
With Flight Options, he gained experience in Beechjets and Hawkers until being furloughed in 2008. He soon found a position with an FBO that needed a Hawker pilot for a private owner. This lasted for 2 years, a portion of which was spent in the chief pilot position.
Delius took a brief hiatus from aviation but he returned flying EMS for a short period. A period of 1.5 years piloting a Cessna Citation Bravo and Citation VII for a charter company at CNO (Chino CA) was followed by a return to Flight Options, which was now Flexjet.
Things were not meant to be, and he was furloughed again a year later. This time, the release from the company was fortuitous. Delius soon heard through the rumor mill that Hurley was looking for a pilot to join him. His company was purchasing a new aircraft and they needed someone with Delius’ experience.
Hurley interviewed him and their connection was immediate. It was 2016 and the pieces of the C&M Premier flight operations puzzle were coming together. Now all they needed was the right aircraft.
Choices abound in the super-midsize jet market. It is perhaps the most hotly contested niche in the private jet industry, with every major manufacturer offering up a model to meet the exacting needs of operators in this segment. So, when C&M Premier went looking for a new aircraft, they evaluated everything that was available – both new and preowned.
After an exhaustive search, the choice was the Embraer Legacy 500. C&M Premier’s 2016-model Legacy 500 boasts impressive stats. It’s capable of speeds up to M 0.83, has a range superior to 3100 nm, and a service ceiling of 45,000 ft – all while maintaining a cabin altitude of 6000 ft.
Up to 10 passengers can relax in a nearly 7-ft-wide, flat-floor cabin with 6 ft of headroom, and the levels of luxury and technology expected by demanding owners.
An often-overlooked feature enjoyed by C&M Premier’s owner is the handrail along the headliner, which is incorporated into the wood trim. It’s the little touches like this that can make the difference.
In the cockpit
While the cabin is surely a sanctuary of opulence and automation, some of the more notable features of the Legacy 500 are found when making a left at the top of the stairs. One glance inside the cockpit and even seasoned pilots will be riveted.
The most obvious feature is actually one that is missing: a flight yoke. The Legacy 500 is one of the first business jets to utilize a full fly-by-wire system, taking advantage of the enhanced safety and smooth ride it affords. The side stick control is placed alongside each pilot in a naturally comfortable position.
The intuitive Collins Pro Line Fusion avionics package is laid out across 4 15.1-inch high-resolution displays. Among other features, it incorporates a synthetic vision system (SVS), MultiScan weather radar, and surface management system, providing the utmost in safety and reduction of pilot fatigue.
“This aircraft blew me away when I first flew it,” says Hurley. “It is unlike any other airplane I’ve ever flown. It is absolutely driven by safety and it is the easiest airplane in the world to fly.” The 2 Honeywell HTF7500E turbofan engines provide over 7000 lbf of thrust – more than enough to allow departures from runways shorter than 4100 ft and permit landing at fields just longer than 2100 ft, thus ensuring that airport selection isn’t a problem.
Reliability of C&M Premier’s Legacy 500 has been stellar. Hurley explains, “In the 4 years we’ve been flying this, we’ve only had one single AOG. And even on that occurrence, Embraer was there to help when we called. The service we get from Embraer and our local representative, Bruno Macedo, is amazing.”
Account Mgr Bruno Macedo returns the compliment. “It is a pleasure to work with Mr Hurley and C&M Premier. They really embrace the spirit of family and partnership which is fundamentally the way Embraer takes care of its customers.”
Hurley and Delius fly approximately 150 hours per year, with 95% of those hours being domestic. Delius explains, “We are on call 24/7, but we almost always know our schedule well in advance.
We have very few pop-up flights, which adds to the quality of life we have here.” Hurley adds, “We are never questioned in our decision-making. The hardest thing you ever have to do is tell your owner, ‘No, we can’t go.’
Even when that happens, he is completely supportive of our decision.” The fact that C&M Premier’s owner allowed Hurley to participate in the acquisition process and entry-into-service experience of their aircraft is another invaluable show of support for his chief pilot.
“He truly does trust us with handling the entire scope of the flight department,” Hurley says. With the amount of flying they do, they have yet to need to hire contract pilots for fill-in. Maintenance is handled by West Star Aviation, usually at its GJT (Grand Junction CO) location.
West Star was also tapped into when C&M Premier decided to repaint its Legacy 500 in Feb 2020, with George Euler providing the custom look it now sports.
While the aircraft is housed in a private hangar, Stellar Aviation RNO provides fueling and other line service needs. “Just like Embraer, West Star and Stellar have been impeccable in everything they do for us,” says Hurley.
When C&M Premier made the decision to refresh its CNM flight operations in 2013, there were many choices to be made. They proved that their prosperous business history was no fluke when they assembled a combination of a game-changing aircraft and industry-proven pilots.
With Hurley and Delius at the controls of the Embraer Legacy 500, the company is on a well-established path to continued success.
Brent Bundy has been a police officer with the Phoenix Police Dept for 29 years. He has served in the PHX Air Support Unit for 19 years and is a helicopter rescue pilot with nearly 4000 hours of flight time. Bundy currently flies Airbus AS350B3s for the helicopter side of Phoenix PD’s air unit and Cessna 172, 182s and 210s for the fixed-wing side.