When Embraer launched its first clean sheet business jet design it came to AirVenture. That was six years ago, and the Brazilian airplane manufacturer has returned to Oshkosh every summer since to show off its growing line of business jets.
From the start, Embraer knew that the world’s biggest aviation event was the place to display its technology and innovation. In fact, the very first flight of the light jet Phenom 100 was broadcast live here at AirVenture. The Phenom 100 was in Brazil but a live satellite feed showed the thousands of aviation enthusiasts here the first Phenom takeoff, and landing, in real time. I still have the T-shirt Embraer created to celebrate that first flight here.
Embraer is a relatively new company as airframe manufacturers go but it has grown rapidly. The first Embraer designs were regional airline turboprops followed by regional jets. Now the company’s family of 170/190 “E” jets are flying for airlines, big and small, around the world.
Embraer entered the business jet business with the Legacy, an ERJ that was modified for the corporate mission. But Embraer also established a long range plan to build clean sheet business jets and the Phenom 100 was the first. The entry level jet has an advanced wing that gives it good short runway performance but also is low enough in drag for a fast 390 knot cruise speed.
The Phenom 100 has been a big success with more than 200 jets delivered since the first one flew away from the factory at the end of 2008. A Phenom 100 operated by Purdue University is on display here at AirVenture. Purdue uses the airplane for university travel, but it also allows students in the famed Purdue aviation program to get jet experience before they graduate.
Embraer is methodically filling its line of jets with development of the Legacy 500 and 450. These airplanes have cabins with stand-up headroom and flat floors, a feature in great demand but short supply in the midsize business jet category. The Legacy 500/450 are also fast with cruise speeds of around 450 knots and long range. The Legacy 500 has a 3,000 nm range with reserves giving it the legs you need for nonstop across the United States against the strongest headwinds, and to hop the Atlantic.
The Legacy 500/450 have fly-by-wire flight control systems, meaning the pilot’s control inputs are sent into a series of computers that calculate how to move the flight control surfaces to satisfy the pilot’s commands. Fly-by-wire has become the norm in newly designed airline jets, and has been a standard feature of jet fighters for many years, but the technology is new to midsize business jets.
It is the continuous innovation that Embraer has shown that makes the company right at home at AirVenture. After all, EAA is about applying new techniques and new designs in ways that haven’t been done before. And that’s what Embraer is doing with its new line of jets. Embraer conducts extensive market research to learn what people want in an airplane at each price point—such as stand-up cabin head room—and then figures out how to design an airplane to satisfy the demand.
Embraer and EAA have been a great match over the past six years. Aviation enthusiasts of all types come to AirVenture to see the latest in innovation, and a visit to the Embraer exhibit just off ConocoPhillips Plaza never disappoints.