Estimated reading time 11 minutes, 42 seconds.
It’s slick, innovative, comfortable, efficient, safe. If you ask a Phenom 300 series operator what they love about the plane, these are some of the answers you’re likely to hear. It’s been the best-selling light jet for nine years running, and it’s no coincidence. More than 600 Phenom 300 series aircraft have been delivered since the aircraft entered service in December 2009, and the type is flying in more than 30 countries.
So, what makes this twin jet so desirable?
Embraer brought the Phenom 300 to market just over a decade ago, with the goal to challenge the status quo of the light jet category.
“They accomplished that well, and that’s why it’s popular,” said Glenn Thorpe, director of sales and marketing at Canadian private charter and aircraft management company, Flightpath.
“‘Embraer’ immediately implies a more modern product,” he added. “That innovation is there to make the pilot or the owner/operator’s life easy.”
Powered by two Pratt & Whitney Canada (P&WC) PW535E turbofan engines, the Phenom 300E can fly distances up to 2,010 nautical miles at a cruising speed of 464 knots, with a 45,000-foot service ceiling. It’s a clean-sheet design, compared to other business jets. And best of all, it’s simple.
“Embraer really got all the automation right in their design,” said Flightpath Captain Osama Arafat. “Ninety percent of all the switches in the cockpit are in auto-mode, and they stay there. It’s very simple from a design perspective. . . . [Embraer’s] pedigree is airliners, and they brought that level of safety innovation into the business jet market when designing the Phenoms.”
The first Phenom 300 series aircraft was added to Flightpath’s fleet in 2015, followed by a second in 2020, with a third (the new Phenom 300E) on its way later this year. The company’s total fleet today is 14 aircraft — nearly half of which are Embraer products, including the Phenom 100; each aircraft is owned by a private individual, and managed by Flightpath.
Headquartered at the Region of Waterloo International Airport (YKF), with locations across Ontario and Quebec, the luxury charter flight company had a vision 15 years ago to offer a better experience for both aircraft owners and their management and acquisition services, as well as charter clientele. “We wanted to offer a very personalized approach to that,” described Thorpe.
The company operates on average over 150 flights per month across Canada, the U.S., and internationally, but the frequency all depends on fleet size. When the new Phenom 300E is brought online this year — bringing Flightpath’s fleet to 15 — “that will change our numbers a fair bit,” said Thorpe.
While the company has a variety of types in its fleet, Flightpath sees itself as the “go-to” for Embraer products: “We have the certificates, the experience, and the crew.”
FROM BEST TO BETTER
Between the pilot, the customer, and the operator, “everyone loves the Phenom,” Thorpe told Skies. “We all love it for different reasons. The crew love it because of its very modern flight deck; it’s really comfortable, and very safe.”
Then there’s the efficient fuel burn, which saves on operating costs. A newer Phenom 300, according to Thorpe, costs similar to charter as an older Cessna Citation.
And when it comes to customers who are looking to charter an aircraft, Thorpe said there’s “a huge difference” between the Phenom 300 and other light jets that are available to charter in the Canadian marketplace. “With light jets in Canada, most of what you can charter is 1990s products. . . . The Phenom’s technology really enhances the flying experience.”
Debatably one of the biggest draws for the Phenom 300 is that it’s certified as a single-pilot plane. In fact, it’s the fastest and longest-range single-pilot certified business jet on the market.
For Flightpath, “some of our aircraft owners are our certified crew as well,” said Thorpe. For these owners who are also pilots, “they can fly themselves. . . . But when Flightpath operates a charter, there are always two pilots on board.”
So, how could Embraer improve on the Phenom 300 series? The OEM asked customers and operators the very same question back in 2017 — around the time the company launched the Phenom 300E version.
Taking feedback into consideration, Embraer began to implement customer requests into an “enhanced” Phenom design in 2018 — ultimately leading to the newest plane in the Phenom 300 series: the enhanced 300E.
‘E’ IS FOR ENHANCED
It was a two-and-a-half-year process from the beginning of development to the enhanced Phenom 300E jet’s entry into service in mid-2020. And it was time well spent. Embraer managed to make the fastest single-pilot bizjet even faster. The new 300E jet is capable of speeds up to Mach 0.80, with a range of 2,010 nm. Each P&WC PW535E1 powerplant produces 3,478 lbf, equaling a total thrust output of 6,956 lbf.
A comfortable flight for the Phenom 300E would include routes from Miami to New York, or Aspen to San Francisco. But the jet can easily fly U.S. coast-to-coast with one stop.
The enhanced jet is also quieter, more comfortable, and, most importantly, even safer than before. Safety is “paramount” for Embraer — as it should be in aviation.
The new 300E is equipped with a runway overrun awareness and alerting system (ROAAS), “which is not only a first in the light jet segment, but actually a first in business aviation,” said Alvadi Serpa Junior, director of product strategy for Embraer Executive Jets. The ROAAS provides a warning advisory in situations where the runway approach is too steep or too fast.
The flight deck is home to the Prodigy Touch avionics suite, which features the latest and greatest from the Garmin G3000, “and in some cases it goes even beyond the G3000, with the ROAAS for example,” said Serpa. The Gogo ATG 4G connectivity system on the 300E Enhanced is another advanced feature in the light jet category.
Embraer also brought improvements to both the cabin and the cockpit in terms of comfort. “We reduced the noise levels [in the cabin] and also improved the quality of the noise by working on those high-frequency sources.” But pilot comfort is important, too. So, Embraer increased the leg room in the cockpit to accommodate taller pilots.
Back inside the passenger cabin, there are three main configurations for the enhanced jet. The maximum capacity when it comes to occupants is 11 — which includes crew (one or two pilots). Serpa said the most popular layout is with eight seats in the cabin, including a two-place divan, plus one lavatory seat that is approved for takeoff and landing, and two seats in the cockpit. Owners and operators can also choose to have seven cabin seats and one lavatory seat, or six cabin seats, a lavatory seat, and a large refreshment center. The latter layout was selected by the world’s largest private jet company, U.S.-based NetJets, for its Phenom 300 aircraft.
For the global manufacturer, North America is the biggest market for the Phenom 300 series — roughly 70 percent, in fact. The enhanced jet actually first entered into service in the U.S., with Texas-based launch customer Dunham & Jones, Attorneys at Law, P.C., which took delivery of the aircraft in June 2020.
Recently, Embraer delivered the first Duet version of the 300E — a special collaboration with Porsche that combines design elements from both the 911 Turbo S sportscar and the aircraft. Those who are able to claim a Duet version will possess one of only 10 existing limited-edition 300E jets. The first privileged Duet customer, who took delivery this past July, is based out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Serpa said that customer is “already enjoying their new bird.”
And there are hundreds of customers who are also enjoying their Phenom 300-series jets around the world, with over 600 aircraft in service. Of those, 420 are the “classic” Phenom 300 model, and roughly 130 are the 300E model launched in 2017.
The latest Phenom 300E is on a promising path, with around 50 aircraft already flying around the world since the aircraft’s June 2020 entry into service. So far, the feedback is “very positive” — as Embraer carefully anticipated.
“We made sure to address the customers’ requests [with the enhanced jet]; they asked for something, and we did what they were asking,” said Serpa.
“When you look back and you see the airplane ranking as the best-selling light jet nine years running, you can only agree that the feedback overall is positive,” he added.
When it comes to cost, base price for the new Phenom 300E is US$9.65 million. For those looking to get their hands on one, there will be a bit of a wait for the popular twin jet. With the manufacturer’s current backlog, customers can expect a one-year lead time for a brand-new Phenom 300E built from scratch. That means the customer would “sit with us in the design studio; go over the configuration of their airplane; and select materials, the trim and finishing, avionics, optional features, etc.,” said Serpa.
The OEM is trying to remain conscious of its production levels. “We don’t want to get too excited and over produce, and by the same token we don’t want to get too conservative and leave customers unattended,” Serpa told Skies. “We believe the industry can handle a one-year backlog.”
Based on the aircraft’s track record, and industry feedback, it seems it’s well worth the wait.