The second week of July saw a small corner of Hampshire in England buzzing with excitement and anticipation as the Farnborough International Airshow got under way. This historic airfield, thirty miles to the south west of London, plays host every two years to the world’s aircraft manufacturers, aircraft component and service providers as they showcase their latest offerings. The seven day event is predominantly a trade show and attracts prospective buyers from all over the world. Often, multi billion dollar deals are signed for the next generation of aircraft.
This year I was invited to attend by Embraer Executive Jets, principally to visit their new Farnborough Headquarters and sample the Embraer Legacy 650 lifestyle, a glimpse into the future of executive aviation.
Embraer’s Executive Jet Farnborough headquarters
Embraer Executive Jets main European headquarters are based at Le Bourget near Paris. Until now they have not had a presence in the UK.
They have chosen their location wisely. Farnborough, although a commercial airfield and close to London, does not have the same density of traffic as nearby Heathrow making the availability of arrival and departures slots never a problem. However, it is still ideally positioned to take full advantage of onward overland connections to either central London, the Midlands or the southern half of the UK. Alternatively, with prior arrangement, you could arrange travel by helicopter via Barclay’s London Heliport, Battersea, substantially cutting the journey time to central London.
Located in offices adjacent to the Tag Aviation complex on the northern side of Farnborough, the opening was to coincide with the London Olympics thus allowing Embraer executive jet owners and operators to take full advantage of their facilities whilst attending the Games.
The Tag complex is a modern, state of the art building boasting excellent hangar space and engineering facilities as well as a superb terminal building.
I have used this self contained facility on a number of occasions and I was greatly impressed by the quality of the service provided by all the staff, including those on the ramp. Excellent, unhurried and unobtrusive sums it up.
The aircraft ramp itself is a continuation of the terminal building floor with no steps to negotiate. It has floor to ceiling windows and it felt as though you could step out of your chair directly onto your aircraft, a seamless transition to your awaiting jet. Security checks were only a mild irritation, unlike those encountered in an international airport.
The Embraer offices are easily found at the end of the hangars where no doubt a warm welcome awaits for owners and operators who can then discuss the latest offerings and innovations.
The Embraer Legacy 650 Lifestyle
Followers of this website will know that I have written about the Legacy 650 before. However, as an Embraer pilot, most of my time is spent at the pointed end. I am, therefore, very familiar with the aircraft’s operating capabilities but less acquainted with what the cabin has to offer the business person. It is very rare that I get the opportunity to sit and relax as a passenger so when Embraer Executive Jets invited me to experience the Legacy 650 Lifestyle and business capabilities I grabbed it with both hands.
This was a great opportunity to discover the Legacy 650 as a passenger on a demonstration flight from London to Dundee, Scotland, and to consolidate my opinion that it is the perfect tool for the business person. Greater distances than my brief trip would be no problem. It is quite capable of reaching numerous other business or leisure destinations around the world within eight hours distance. My flight was simply a taster. London to New-York or Dubai is quite feasible.
With its three distinct cabin zones and spacious wet galley, the Legacy 650 also has the largest in-flight accessible baggage compartment of its class and the aircraft we flew in was sporting its new, state-of-the-art improvements to passenger comfort which are now standard on the large-class executive aircraft. These changes are specifically designed to increase cabin comfort ensuring passengers have the right environment in which to either relax or work.
The work life balance should never be compromised
It is not until you are in the cabin that you realise how well thought out the three zone concept is. It allows a variety of tasks to be carried out simultaneously without any overlap or compromising their execution. Each is carried out in its own distinct zone but in sumptuous surroundings.
Most aircraft interior layouts are bespoke. This particular one which I flew in was fresh off the production line with only 100 hours on the clock. It was fitted out with pale, deep pile carpets, matching leather upholstery and with plenty of dark wood veneer, all blending together and very pleasing to the eye.
This did not feel like an aircraft interior, more a home from home or office in the sky. It ensured that time was not squandered but used wisely whether that was working, relaxing or enjoying a meal. All conceivable creature comforts were met. The pale interior colour scheme and discreet lighting made the cabin feel spacious and even with nine other fellow passengers on board there was always somewhere on the aircraft where I could go if I needed some space or time on my own.
Life should be a pleasure never a chore
The transition from waiting area into the air was smooth and stress free. An exceptionally quiet cabin made conversation easy. Concentrating on work issues would have been effortless. The peace and serenity was only broken by the noise of the undercarriage being retracted just after takeoff.
It was only a one hour flight and it passed quickly so that before we knew it we were in Scotland and on our way to The Gleneagles Hotel for a working lunch followed by a spot of clay pigeon shooting.
The day truly highlighted the business and pleasure capabilities of the aircraft. It is definitely a valuable business tool giving clients the edge over and above their competitors whilst offering the flexibility to adapt to their requirements, business or pleasure.
“I have seen the future of executive aviation”
The success of Embraer executive jets around the world has been phenomenal. However, Embraer are by no means complacent and are always seeking ways to improve their products and fulfil the requirements of their discerning customers. Therefore, once again, Embraer have taken the bold steep to radically rethink the executive jet for the future.
This is another clean sheet design following on from the outstanding success with the Phenom 100 and 300. Embraer have built upon their many years and millions of flight hours logged and experience in the executive market to produce the latest state of the art aircraft. It encompasses many technologies rarely seen before in this segment, enhancing safety and improving efficiency yet still retaining the superb range and levels of comfort that we have come to expect from this market leader.
The future is not that far off and comes in the form of the Legacy 500.
The Legacy 500
Only Embraer owner operators were able to view a full scale fuselage mock-up of Embraer’s latest development aircraft, the Legacy 500, at this year’s Farnborough Airshow.
Hidden away in a hangar beside Embraer’s offices, this full size fuselage mock-up included a fully fitted cabin and flight deck, giving us a glimpse into the future of executive aviation.
To the untrained eye, externally, the Legacy 500 does not look too dissimilar to the 650. It is may be slightly more rounded and with a less stepped nose. However, the similarities are only superficial. It isn’t until you get beneath the skin that you realise how radically different the 500 is from previous models.
The aircraft designers have incorporated many new technologies which would have been compromised if applied or adapted to fit older aircraft types. In some instances it would have been technically too difficult and financially prohibitive to do so.
One such advancement is the use of fly by wire. The Embraer 500 is the only aircraft in the mid jet size segment, and only the second executive jet that I am aware of, to include this technology.
In older aircraft the control column is linked to the aerodynamic control surfaces via a system of pulleys and levers with the addition of hydraulic actuators to power the moveable flight surfaces. Such systems require regular maintenance and are, by their very nature, heavy giving the aircraft an additional weight penalty.
The Legacy 500 does away with this cumbersome system replacing the traditional flight deck yoke with a side stick. This in turn feeds control inputs via a computing system directly to the actuators. As a consequence maintenance is drastically reduced, weight saved, range and performance enhanced and, most significantly, operating costs reduced.
However, most important of all, safety is radically enhanced. This is because the computers are programmed to ensure that the aircraft cannot exceed the aircraft’s flight envelop. This has the added benefit of reducing pilot workload and ensuring flight safety is never compromised at any stage in the flight.
From a passenger’s perspective it also smooths out turbulence making for a much more comfortable and relaxing flight, ensuring you arrive at your destination ready to do business.
Flight deck of the future
On any flight deck safety is paramount. Technology should be used to enhance it. However, with the Legacy 500, Embraer have gone one stage further. The flight deck has extremely clean lines and is greatly simplified ensuring that only those controls pertinent to the flight are readily, and unambiguously, available. The avionics suite has not been adapted from older systems, but has been designed by Rockwell Collins, in conjunction with the pilots who will operate it, specifically for the 500.
A synthetic vision system will be standard. This not only provides all flight information in an easy to interpret format but overlays it onto a terrain mapping system thus improving situational awareness for the crew.
Gone will be today’s paper approach plates to be replaced with an electronic flight bag. Up to the minute weather reports for your destination will be readily available. All this will be delivered on multi function displays, with enhanced clarity providing intuitive operation.
In addition auto-throttles will help to conserve fuel while once again reducing pilot work load.
A cabin that exceeds expectations
No other mid size jet has such a spacious cabin, 6ft high and 6 ft 10 in. wall to wall, making it not only the largest in its class but also putting those in the class above to shame. However, size isn’t everything. It is how that space is utilised that matters and this is all down to design.
The award winning interior is a consequence of Embraers on going partnership with BMW Group DesignworksUSA, a partnership which was extremely successful when they collaborated on the Phenom 100 and 300.
Once again the partnership’s magic has most definitely worked. It has resulted in a cabin that through the intelligent use of lighting creates a tranquil and relaxing atmosphere. Subtle earth tones with discreet mood light help to create an ambience that suits the occasion, enhanced by the elegant design of the leather upholstery. The single seats appear to float above the floor yet are able to slide, swivel or rotate. Despite their diminutive appearance they are exceptionally comfortable, without any bulk. Larger, they would reduce the generous spaciousness of the cabin to the detriment of passenger ease.
As in any executive jet the interior is bespoke and you can be assured that the finish will exceed your expectations. As always, Embraer ensure that every creature comfort is met. The efficient layout of the galley simplifies meal preparation, whether the choice is hot or cold. It is only the breadth of one’s imagination which is the limiting factor.
Although still in the development stage the Legacy 500 is due to take centre stage in this demanding world market in the first quarter of 2014. It is most definitely going to raise the bar significantly in this market sector leaving the competition struggling to catch up.
I wait in anticipation, and to some degree impatiently, for the 500 to be introduced into service.