The latest very light jet, Embraer’s Phenom 100, might be the most attractive for passengers concerned with the space limitations of this new, relatively inexpensive class of aircraft. The $2.75 million Phenom 100 costs more than the segment’s two most prominent members, Cessna’s Citation Mustang ($2.4 million) and the Eclipse 500 ($1.47 million); however, the Phenom’s cabin is taller, wider, and considerably longer than those of the Eclipse and Mustang.
The extra space allows for more legroom, as well as wardrobe and refreshments cabinets. In a standard configuration, the four passenger seats will be arranged as two pairs facing one another with fold-out tables between them, a setup similar to those on conventional business jets. Also, the Phenom will have a conventional lavatory with a proper door, as opposed to the curtained-off potties encountered on Mustangs and Eclipses. The Phenom’s main baggage hold is a generous 45 cubic feet, which is large enough to stow golf clubs or skis, and is nearly twice the volume of the Eclipse’s. “I think the Phenom isn’t trying to go head-to-head on acquisition price and operating cost,” says David Wyndham, vice president of Conklin & de Decker, an aviation consulting firm in Orleans, Mass. “Their selling point is size.”
The Phenom’s manufacturer, Brazil-based Embraer, produces regional airliners and military planes and, with 17,000 employees and $3.5 billion in revenues, is the world’s fourth-largest aircraft company. “This market is underserved in terms of reliable and robust airplanes,” says Luis Carlos Affonso, Embraer’s senior vice president of executive aviation, “but we have lots of experience in designing planes for 3,000 hours of flight per year.”
Richard Aboulafia, a vice president and aviation analyst at the Teal Group, an aviation consulting firm in Fairfax, Va., agrees that having the Embraer name attached to the Phenom helps to distinguish it from many of the other very light jets. “As an established aircraft manufacturer, Embraer has a strong advantage over the new players,” he says. “Specifically, they have a superb sales and support network, and a proven record of delivering aircraft.”
In addition to this promise of reliability, which should translate into greater resale value, the Phenom has a cruising speed of 380 knots, making it one of the fastest very light jets. However, it has shorter range than the Mustang (approximately 1,300 miles vs. 1,500 miles, depending on the number of passengers, the speed of the aircraft, weather conditions, and other factors), and it requires longer runways than the Eclipse (3,400 feet vs. 2,155 feet).
Although the Phenom was introduced only last November, has yet to take to the air, and will not receive FAA certification until summer 2008 at the earliest, Embraer, which already has received a dozen orders, claims it will begin delivering the jet in 2009. The Eclipse and Mustang likely will receive their FAA certification by the end of this year. With at least 2,350 500s already on order, Eclipse has a waiting list that extends to at least mid-2008 for customers purchasing individual planes and into 2010 for fleet customers. If you were to order a Mustang today, you could expect delivery no sooner than 2009.