Department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering in the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan


Professor Renno Flies Embraer’s Phenom 100

Posted: December 3, 2014

Professor Renno Flies Embraer’s Phenom 100

By: Professor Nilton O. Rennó

I’ve spent about 100 hours piloting a classic Cessna 150, 400 hours piloting a G1000 equipped Diamond Star, and 1500 hours piloting high performance racing sailplanes like the Discus 2. But flying a jet was a distant dream. Like sailplanes, modern jets are elegant and aerodynamically efficient.

At Embraer’s 2014 internal workshop on innovation and technology, I got the opportunity to fly one.
The Phenom 100 is a sophisticated entry-level business jet developed by Embraer, with an elegant interior designed by BMW’s Designworks USA. With more than 300 units delivered since its market introduction in December 2008, the Phenom 100 is the most successful light business jet in the market.

The Phenom 100 has been certified for single pilot, and a substantial number have been sold to pilot owners. Those who fly piston-powered general aviation aircrafts do not expect to be able to fly a sophisticated business jet without first going through intensive training in flight simulators, but the Phenom 100 completely changes this perception. The ergonomic design of its pilot-friendly cockpit and the elegant Garmin G1000 Prodigy Flight Deck system, together with its harmonic handling and slow approach speeds make piloting the Phenom 100 as simple as piloting a modern piston-powered single engine aircraft; like the Cirrus and the Diamond Star.

I flew in the right seat, with Embraer’s test pilot Russo in the left seat. After starting the engine, going over the emergency procedures, and completing the pre-flight checklist, Russo instructed me to taxi to Gavião Peixoto’s runway 20. Arriving on the runway, Russo instructed me to apply the breaks, move the throttle to full power, and then disengage the brakes. When we reached take off speed, Russo instructed me to pull up. However, since I was used to flying light general aviation airplanes, I did not realize that a strong pull up was necessary; Russo helped me. We retracted the flaps and landing gear as we began to climb. I followed the directions of the flight computer (the flight director) and climbed to 41,000 ft while Russo talked with the Brasilia air traffic controller and programed the flight computer.

After reaching an altitude of 41,000 feet, the sky was beautifully dark blue. The thin air at high altitude does scatter sunlight as efficiently as the thicker air near the surface; this is the beginning of the transition from the atmosphere to space! Our flight path had to remain inside Embraer’s restricted flight test area and this required periodic turns during the 2 hours flight. Our cruising speed increased steadily as fuel was consumed, and by the end of the flight, we were cruising at above Mach 0.7. I flew by hand most of the time in spite of Russo suggesting a few times that I use the autopilot. I wanted to fly by hand to feel the airplane, so I always insisted I do so. Luckily, Russo’s answer was always to go ahead. A few times, we encountered light turbulence. This, combined with the delayed airplane controls’ response in the thin air of high altitude, tested my piloting skills at the edge of the Phenom 100 flight envelop.

The descent and the landing were the highlights of the flight. Russo set the flight path on the Phenom flight computer and I followed it closely. The rate of descent exceeded 5,000 feet per minute while I made tight turns to intercept the final to Runway 20. Realizing that we were too high for a direct approach to this runaway, Russo requested a change to Runway 02 and then reprogramed the flight computer for it. I kept following the directions of the flight computer while energetically bouncing around in the turbulent air at speeds of about 425 knots while continuing to descend. It was an exciting experience to say the least.

On the final approach to Runway 02, Russo instructed me to keep the speed at 110 knots. The 15,000 ft long runway of Embraer’s flight test facility in Gavião Peixoto is long enough for even a novice jet pilot like me to be able to land on the first attempt. I kept flying at 110 knots by regulating the throttle in order to reach the long runway. This, along with the Phenom 100 stable approach, made the landing nice and smooth.

The Phenom 100 is a fantastic airplane. If you would like to fly your own small business jet, you should give it a test flight. If it doesn’t suit you, you could try the larger Phenom 300, or the even larger and revolutionary Legacy 500.

I would like to thank Emilio Matsuo and Alexandre Figueiredo for making my dream of flying the Phenom 100 possible, Russo for the instruction, Fernando Ranieri for the invitation to speak at Embraer’s workshop, Lucas Renno and Nicole Casal Moore for the editorial suggestions.

(Image: Prof. Renno and the Phenom 100. This photo was taken by Alexandre Figueiredo.)

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