“You want to make sure with a race in which you'll be flying home with other drivers that you don't crash into them. It's happened before, and it can make for a little bit of a tense situation.”
Embraer's Legacy 450
The Brazilian airframer promised a “game changer,” and it is delivering.
A little over a decade ago, Embraer’s entry into the corporate jet market engendered some skepticism. Until then, the Brazilian airframer had been best known in the civil market for its commuter turboprops and regional jets. Its initial foray into the corporate jet industry involved taking two of those models, the ERJ-135 and the E190, and turning them into bizjets by adding more fuel tanks, upscale interiors and enhanced cabin soundproofing.
But then Embraer announced plans for four completely new airplanes to complete the spectrum, from the entry-level Phenom 100 to the transcontinental, midsize Legacy 500. Today, the Phenom 100 and larger 300 are being assembled at Embraer’s new Melbourne, Florida campus, while the Legacy 500 is in flight test in Brazil. The company expects a slightly shorter variant of the 500, the 450, to make its first flight later this year.
When Embraer CEO Frederico Fleury Curado announced plans for the 450 and 500 in 2007, he promised a “game-changer, a not me-too aircraft.”
That’s just what his company intends to deliver.
Embraer has rapidly gained bizjet market share by offering a simple value proposition: more for less. It’s a formula that has already taken a big bite out of the business of Cessna, helped to destroy the jet market for Hawker Beechcraft and made Bombardier hear footsteps. The philosophy lives on with the 450.
The 450 and 500 share a fuselage cross section that provides unprecedented cabin space for aircraft in this category. Aboard the 450—which is positioned in a niche Embraer calls “mid-light”—there is room for seven to nine passengers, depending on the cabin layout. The lavatory features a solid door, vanity, basin and vacuum toilet—a luxury not usually seen in an airplane of this size. Cabin choices include a two-place divan opposite the entry door in lieu of the forward right-hand storage cabinet and the aft facing seat. If you don’t want the divan, you can use the space for a full-size dry or wet galley. The latter features hot and cold water, four gallons of potable water, an ice drawer, crystal storage, compartments for china and silverware and a 110V power outlet. Options include a monitor and espresso maker, and another single seat can be positioned next to the galley.
Flying with a stable of clothes horses? No problem. The baggage hold is cavernous for an airplane in this category: 150 cubic feet. Passengers can bring more luggage, skis, golf clubs and anything else than they could fit into almost any other midsize or super-midsize jet.
Add to all that space some serious whiz-bang, starting in the cockpit.
The traditional control yokes are gone, replaced by side sticks connected to a fly-by-wire (FBW) flight-control system. FBW eliminates the mechanical linkages between the flight controls and the flight-control surfaces (ailerons, rudder, elevator and spoilers). Pilot inputs are combined with sensor inputs and computerized flight-control laws for crisper and faster inputs that do not deviate from the aircraft’s performance envelope. FBW appeared first on fighter jets and, later, on airliners.
The cockpit offers state-of-the-art Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion avionics. The four large active-matrix LCDs in the panel connect the pilots with synthetic enhanced vision with an optional head-up display; electronic charts, maps, graphical weather depiction from an intuitive MultiScan weather radar system that sees up to 300 miles out; and an airport surface-management system that minimizes the chances of making a wrong turn or colliding with another vehicle on the ground, even when visibility is limited. The system minimizes pilot workload while incorporating data from just about every known safety system. The MultiScan weather radar has the predictive capability to guide pilots not just around bad weather but over it. Fusion can grow to accommodate future technology add-ons such as voice recognition, surface guidance and automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B), the future of air traffic control.
Passengers on the 450 will be treated to Honeywell’s high-definition Ovation Select cabin-management system, which allows for control of entertainment, communications, lights, temperature, window shades and more via drink-rail-mounted units, wireless handheld remotes or a galley touchscreen. The system can interface with high-speed satellite communications and a variety of consumer electronics, including iPods, MP3 players, Apple TV and gaming systems. Moreover, it is built on an Ethernet backbone and offers extensive diagnostic and troubleshooting capability. Ovation’s media interface also hosts the optional JetMap3HD moving-map applications and provides news, weather and sports updates. Ovation uses high-end Rosen HD monitors and Alto audio components. The aircraft pressurization system keeps cabin altitude at a comfortable 6,000 feet at the 450’s maximum cruising altitude of 45,000 feet.
You can get up to 43,000 feet just 22 minutes after takeoff thanks to the aircraft’s pair of quiet, state-of-the-art Honeywell HTF7500E engines (6,540 pounds of thrust each).
Beyond the hardware, Embraer is moving to give midsize airplane customers the same care and feeding afforded those who spend tens of millions more. Last year the company hired Jay Beever as vice president of interior design. He previously served as design manager for new product development at Gulfstream Aerospace, where he worked on the recently introduced G650 and the Elite interiors for the G550 and G450. Embraer’s plan is to offer customers an unmatched array of interior choices and personalization for the 450 with the help of the latest high-tech tools, including computer modeling, animation and rendering software at its Florida design center.
“We are going to give midsize-jet customers the same completion experience they would have if they ordered a [$50 million] Lineage,” says Robert Knebel, Embraer vice president for executive jet sales. It’s a safe bet the customers will like it.
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