Just over a decade ago, Brazilian firm Embraer entered the business jet market with phenomenal success. Since then, Embraer has made equally significant inroads as a designer and manufacturer of regional jets.
In the past, commercial airframers have attempted to take their airliners to the corporate market with sometimes disastrous results. Embraer vaulted the trend. It initially translated its experience developing highly efficient airliners to the corporate jet market using airliner adaptations. For example, the company’s first business aircraft was the Legacy, an executive-configured version of one of Embraer’s most popular airliners, the ERJ135. Originally designed for the thin-margin regional airline market, this large-cabin jet had built-in operational efficiencies that allowed it to compete head-to-head with significantly smaller regional jets.
As a business aircraft, those airliner qualities proved particularly beneficial: The Legacy offered a huge cabin, midsize jet price tag, reliability, maintainability and excellent operating economy. Its success led to a commitment to develop an entire family of corporate jets specifically designed for the business aircraft market. The first was the Phenom 100, closely followed by the slightly larger and more capable Phenom 300. With the new models, Embraer entered a highly competitive light jet market. Even though its competitors have 30 or more years of history behind them, Embraer is not only succeeding, it is thriving.
I compared the Phenom 300 with new jets priced between $7 million to $10 million dollars.
The list price for the 2012 Phenom 300 is $8.76 million. Entering a new design in an entrenched market is difficult because of the allocation of research and development costs. The long-term competition has already paid for their R&D, providing them the opportunity to discount and still maintain target margins. Embraer, however, has the advantage of lower labor costs, which allows it to be price competitive.
Cabin & Baggage
When I sat in the Phenom 300 for the first time, I was impressed. The height, width and length combine to achieve the best overall cabin volume, but it also felt roomier – more like a midsize-cabin jet. The ramp presence was similar to that of a midsize-cabin aircraft with its substantial airstair and higher-than-typical height above the ground.
The baggage is the best in its class. There is enough space to fit 22 standard carry-on bags in the belly, plus additional storage inside the cabin. The flexibility of the baggage door allows for efficient use of the space.
The Phenom 300 stands out with excellent performance departing or arriving at difficult mountainous airports. The one in Aspen, Colorado, for example, has long been one of the trickiest airports to negotiate. Most lights jets don’t have the range to reach the East Coast from Denver, so they are even less likely to meet Aspen’s challenges. The Phenom 300 has that special capability to fly from Aspen with four passengers nonstop to New York. Additionally, the aircraft is quick. On a typical 700-statute-mile business trip, the Phenom 300 lands just three minutes behind the fastest jet in its category, and it will use 13% less fuel than its top competitor.
With speed, economy and performance like that, it is no wonder that two major fractional providers have decided to add this aircraft to their fleets. Flight Options, which currently operates more than 17 Phenom 300s, ordered 100 with options for 50 more; and NetJets, which will place Phenom 300s in operation in 2013, ordered 50 with options for 75 more.
Embraer delivered 24 Phenom 300s this year, and as the Embraer name becomes more familiar to corporate buyers, this aircraft will likely become the best seller in its category. The Phenom 300’s outstanding performance will undoubtedly ensure its success in the years to come.