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A Coming Phenom


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A Coming Phenom

 

Da'-lhe, EMBRAER :Brazil::Brazil::Brazil::Brazil::Brazil::Brazil::Brazil::Brazil::Brazil::Brazil::Brazil::Brazil::Brazil::Brazil::Brazil::Brazil::Brazil::Brazil:

 

Perhaps befitting its status as one of the world’s top makers of big airplanes, Embraer is offering buyers for its smallest creation, the soon-to-be-released Phenom 100, amenities typically found only in larger aircraft

 

Avionics Magazine

Ron Laurenzo

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

 

Want a user-friendly, cutting-edge flight deck with growth potential for, say, synthetic vision? No problem. Want the reliability and dispatch dependency learned from decades of making airliners engineered into the basic design of your mini jet? Got it. How about autopilot functions tied to a full authority digital engine control (FADEC) that offer the best airspeed management this side of autothrottles? Check. Want an enclosed potty because your passengers’ bodily functions might not obediently shut down just because they’re on a "short-range" jet? We hear you.

 

How much these and other features will sway customers in the face of competition from bizjet producer Cessna, with its Mustang and CJ1 aircraft, or the Eclipse 500 from upstart Eclipse Aviation remains to be seen. But it is clear that Embraer, which announced the Phenom 100 a little more than three years ago and began test flights last summer, is not taking success for granted. Far from it, the Brazilian company best known for its regional jet airliners has fully focused its deep resources on the Very Light Jet (VLJ) market.

 

The foray into the realm of VLJs began as the company finished designing the E170/190 regional jet family, shifting those engineers and designers to the Phenom family, which includes the larger, faster, longer-range 300, now in flight testing and scheduled to enter the light jet market in the latter half of 2009.

 

By late May, Embraer had already sold 750 Phenoms, said Henrique Langenegger, Embraer vice president for Executive Aircraft, declining to break down numbers between the 100 and 300. The company plans to deliver the first 100 in either September or October and move up to 15 out the door by the end of the year. With a projected lifespan of 35,000 flight hours and many features designed to simplify maintenance and maintain high dispatch reliability, the 100 is specifically targeted at air-taxi companies, which have placed about half the orders.

 

"The owner pilots will have a lot of things for free that they don’t really need," said Langenegger. "Sometimes we joke that their great great grandchildren will still be flying it."

 

Prodigy Flight Deck

 

Although slower and shorter-ranged than larger business jets, avionics is one area, probably the only one, where VLJs can match up with heavier, more expensive aircraft.

 

At the heart of the Phenom is Embraer’s Prodigy Flight Deck, based on Garmin’s G1000 integrated avionics suite. Although designed to be flown by one pilot, Embraer estimates only about one-quarter of users, primarily owner operators, will actually do so. Langenegger said people who fly for leisure tend to go single pilot, while private operators who use the plane for business like to take a professional along for added safety. Charter and air-taxi operators will most likely fly with two pilots.

 

Langenegger said Embraer chose Garmin based on performance and cost.

 

"The Garmin platform offers a lot of functionality, sometimes even more functionality than we have on our big aircraft," he said. "It helps us to offer an aircraft at a much lower price, around $3 million compared to $4 million-plus."

 

Among other things, with a software update the Garmin avionics suite will accommodate synthetic vision, currently available only on a limited number of airliners and large-cabin business jets like the Gulfstream 400 and 500 series. The system’s open architecture will keep options open for further upgrades as they become available.

 

BMW Group Designworks USA, Newbury Park, Calif., crafted Prodigy’s sharp exterior design, focusing on ease of use and aesthetic appeal intended to flow into the rest of the interior. Between the ram’s horn yokes, lies another Prodigy feature not common to small airplanes, a panel-mounted keyboard that provides pilots with another, more efficient way to talk with the FMS.

 

Although one of the most overused adjectives in the aviation industry, the word "integrated" does indeed appear to sum up the Prodigy Flight Deck, especially considering the base G1000 and all other avionics subsystems come from Garmin. Think Apple versus PC.

 

"It’s hard to provide a good definition of what [integrated] means to the pilot," said Garmin’s Jessica Myers. "But ultimately it’s going to reduce your workload, it’s going to increase your safety of flight, it’s going to give you more time in the cockpit to manage the aircraft."

 

Several features distinguish the G1000’s application in the Phenom. First, Embraer chose to use identical 12-inch screens for the two primary flight displays and multifunction display (MFD). That allows commercial users operating with minimum equipment lists to dispatch the airplane even if one display dies, a level of redundancy common to airliners and larger business jets, but not the general aviation aircraft with which VLJs are often associated.

 

The Phenom 100 is the first aircraft to include Garmin’s GCU 477 FMS controller, which controls all communications and navigation frequencies. It’s a bit more advanced than the GCU 475 on Cessna’s Mustang, which is strictly an MFD controller and does not control Comms.

 

Another first is the use of Garmin’s new GFC 700, a three-axis, fully digital, dual channel autopilot that is fail-passive, which means that if it breaks, it politely yields control to the pilot while alerting him that it’s time to start hand flying.

 

The GFC 700 is available only as part of a fully integrated Garmin cockpit and cannot be purchased separately to be combined with other navigation systems.

 

The autopilot, in cooperation with dual FADEC-controlled Pratt & Whitney PW617-F turbofans, can also hold airspeed and Mach speed over a limited range defined by the pilot, a feature known as automatic pitch and automatic Mach trim control. Although not a true autothrottle, it’s getting pretty close, Myers said.

 

‘Mach tuck’

 

Automatic pitch trim, which senses the aerodynamic force on the elevator and adjusts trim to maintain a desired angle of attack, is a common autopilot feature included on all G1000-equipped aircraft. But the Phenom 100 and 300 are so far the only Garmin-equipped planes with automatic Mach trim. Starting at Mach.7, the airplane’s center of pressure tends to shift backwards, raising the tail and lowering the nose in a phenomenon known as "Mach tuck." If not corrected, it can exhaust the elevator’s capacity to hold up the nose, resulting in a steep, potentially catastrophic dive. Automatic Mach trim artificially adjusts the elevator and puts back pressure on the yoke to keep the airplane in trim. A nice safety feature on the Phenom 100, which can fly right at Mach.7, it is essential to the speedier Phenom 300.

 

Embraer is working hard to translate what it has learned from building commuter turboprops and regional jets into the Very Light Jet arena, Langenegger said. The company began the Phenom program as EMB170/190 development was winding down, freeing up engineers to move over to the 100, then the 300. More than 800 people are working on Phenom development, he noted.

 

The same designers who made the 170 as the first commercial jet to use a smart probe instead of traditional pitot-static masts also opted to put it on the Phenom 300. Made by Goodrich, the SmartProbe Data System combines multi-function sensing probes, pressure sensors and processors in one unit, decreasing weight, drag and complexity while improving reliability. The system is easier to maintain. If it fails, you replace the whole thing, Langenegger said, without leak tests that require special equipment.

 

Just like their older, bigger cousins, the Phenoms will protect important components inside the pressure hull. Things that are expected to be changed or inspected frequently are easily accessible, not buried so deep you have to take apart the interior to get to them. The goal, Langenegger said, is that it take no more than 15 minutes to extract a part.

 

Another legacy of its airline experience is common type ratings for similar aircraft. Embraer is working with aviation authorities so that a single type rating covers both Phenoms, with differences training for pilots switching between the 100 and 300. The Prodigy Flight Deck in each aircraft is the same.

 

Truth be told, most passengers could care less about what’s in the panel in front of the pilots. They’re happy to arrive safely and, if possible, comfortably. To that end, the Phenom 100 is the only VLJ that comes with a stand-alone lavatory. Langenegger said air-taxi passengers are people who fly business or first class when they go commercial. They’re used to comfort. For the same reason, Embraer redesigned the cabin of the Phenom 100 early in the program, making it the largest in its class, with almost twice the volume of the Eclipse.

 

"Maybe most of the time it’s just going to be psychological, but it’s there if you need it," he said. "You don’t want people to be uncomfortable for part of the flight because they don’t have a lav."

 

Embraer offers an option that swaps the lav for two extra passenger seats, but there have been few takers. Most VLJ customers, Langenegger said, are opting for comfort.

 

 

Copyright © 2008 Access Intelligence, LLC. All rights reserved.
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