Embraer has made a name for itself as a top-of-the-line manufacturer of commercial airliners and long-range business jets ever since its beginning in 1969. So, it came as a surprise in May of 2005 when the company announced that it would be venturing into new territory with a series of light- and mid-sized jets: the Phenom 100 and 300.
The Phenom 100, Embraer’s Very Light Jet (VLJ), just completed its maiden flight in July and is expected to enter service in mid-2008. Its formidable performance capabilities and $3 million price tag put it in competition with other VLJs such as the $2.52 million Citation Mustang or the $1.52 million Eclipse 500.
The Phenom 100’s strongest suit is its cabin: its total internal volume of 282 cubic feet compares very favorably with the 230 cubic feet of the Citation Mustang’s, and the 160 cubic feet of the Eclipse 500. The cabin will be designed in a four-passenger club configuration with a small refreshment center and enclosed lavatory. Embraer selected BMW Group Designworks USA to design the interior of the cabin. The BMW Groups created a design scheme that maximizes space and utilizes light and subtle color schemes to create an airy, relaxing cabin environment. A total of 55 cubic feet of baggage space is available in the Phenom 100, slightly less than the 63 cubic feet offered by the Citation Mustang, but appreciably more than the 16 cubic feet of the Eclipse 500.
All three VLJs chose engines from Pratt & Whitney Canada’s PW600 series to power their aircraft. The Phenom 100 uses two PW617F engines, which have the largest fan diameter (17.6 inches) and the produce the most thrust (1,615 lbs) of any engine in the series. The PW617F, like all other engines in the PW600 series, has an inspection interval of 3,500 hours.
The Phenom 100 sets itself apart from the rest of the VLJ market when range is taken into consideration. NBAA IFR range with 4 passengers and a 200 nautical mile alternate is 1,060 nautical miles. Both the Citation Mustang and Eclipse 500 fall short of the Phenom 100’s range when carrying the same loads and reserves: the Mustang can fly 1,007 nm; the Eclipse 500 can fly 833nm. The Phenom 100 also outstrips its competitors when cruise speeds are compared: it has a high speed cruise of 380 ktas, while the Mustang has a speed of 339 ktas, and the Eclipse 500 a speed of 370.
Embraer equipped the Phenom 100 to compete with the cockpits of much larger business jets when it selected the all-glass Prodigy flight deck for the aircraft. The avionics will be based on the Garmin G1000 suite. Notably, the Phenom 100 will use a brake-by-wire system with anti-skid capabilities. Although the technology of controlling systems by wire has already been used on larger business aircraft, such as the Falcon 7X, the Phenom 100 is the first VLJ to use the technology for a major system.
The most valuable attribute of the Phenom 100 is the hardest to quantify: its design life. The aircraft is engineered for a life of 35,000 cycles, a level Embraer says is 75% higher than the average business jet. Even the testing standards extend beyond the standard limits: Embraer plans to subject the Phenom 100 to the equivalent of 30,000 flight hours for testing, even though 20,000 hours is typical in the industry.
Embraer’s determined pursuit of excellence shows itself in the Phenom 100: it successfully blends innovation with experience in its design, easily outstripping its competitors in terms of cabin space, range, and reliability. Embraer’s already-venerable reputation gained from more than 35 years of achievement will only increase in prestige with the Phenom 100.