Flight Report: The Phenom 300 Business Jet

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Flight Report: Phenom 300 Business Jet

The Phenom 300 Business Jet

The Phenom 300 Business Jet is Embraer’s latest production aircraft (Legacy 450 just passed certification and sales should begin soon), and has shown great success in both aircraft sales, and aircraft performance. Both the Phenom 100 and Phenom 300 are part 23, single pilot certified, jet aircraft. I am not sure if the Phenom 100 is marketed as a VLJ (Very Light Jet) but it is probably close. The Phenom 300 however, is a medium cabin class aircraft. The large fractional company I work for placed the largest order for the 300, with firm orders for 50, and options for another 100 aircraft. Since the order was placed a couple of years ago, we have taken deliveries of about 60 aircraft, and we continue to turn options into firm orders due to the success of selling shares.

The Phenom 300 Business Jet

Embraer is a Brazilian aircraft manufacturer that has a fleet of largely successful regional, and business aircraft. The Phenom 100 has proven to be a fantastic entry level small cabin aircraft for private corporations, as well as regional charter flying for companies such as JetSuite. Both aircraft can be flown single pilot, and are part 23 certified, which surprises most people when you tell them that. Although they are not the first single pilot certified business jets, they are the latest, with the 300 being only 3-4 years old. Lots of companies will operate these aircraft in a typical 2 crew environment, with my company being included. The Phenom 300 is the smallest aircraft my company operates (the Citation XL is very similar in cabin size but slightly larger) and we have over 10 fleet types from the Phenom 300, all the way up to the Global 6000, and we operate very much like a 121 airline. We are not scheduled like a 121 airline, but our training is all conducted under 121, so the crew environment, CRM and coordination is a very important aspect in aircraft training. So in other words, we take a single pilot jet, and operate it like a 737.

The cockpit of NetJet's new plane, the Phenom 300 .(Columbus Dispatch photo by Fred Squillante)

The cockpit of NetJet’s new plane, the Phenom 300 .(Columbus Dispatch photo by Fred Squillante)

The Phenom 300 shines in this role for us, the cockpit layout is set up for single pilot operations so all of the major systems and switches are reachable by the left seat pilot. We have developed a unique flow and checklist system for this aircraft and it works really well in the real world. Now I will add a disclaimer, I am not an expert on the Phenom 300 in general. Our 300s are custom from the factory, meaning the company has added things to the aircraft, changed configurations with regard to the interior etc. so when I am describing the Phenom 300, I am referring to our specific “Signature Series” 300.


Now to the nitty gritty. The Phenom 300 is a 7 seat (the lavatory seat has a seatbelt) mid-sidz cabin. We categorize this cabin as a small cabin for selling purposes when explaining to a customer, but seat wise, and Embraer wise, would call it a mid-size. MTOW is 17,387 lbs, and MMO is .78. Down low, Vne is 320 kts. Range wise, it is very typical that this aircraft can do 2,000 miles with reserves. It’s short field takeoff and landing performance is also very impressive. The engines are P&W 535s, which is the same engine as the Citation Encore, but the performance of the Phenom outshines the Encore in terms of performance and speed. What struck me as impressive early on, was the aerodynamic look of the 300. The 100 is this stubby, short, ugly, strait wing “thing” that resembles more of an aerodynamic mistake, than beauty. Not so with the 300. She is sleek, slender and curvy. The wing is a swept wing with winglets, and the entire aircraft is smooth, including the wing. It is a marvel of aerodynamics from an engineering standpoint. There are no BLEs, stall fences, or any other aerodynamic band-aids to aid in flying characteristics. No ventral fins or other aerodynamic stability pieces are added to this aircraft as an afterthought. Next time on the ramp at the airport, go look at almost any Learjet. Look at the wing, study the wing, and look at the fuselage. What you see are dozens of engineering fixes for issues found during testing.  The Phenom is really a modern marvel of aircraft engineering. Things like the aggressive curvature in the fuselage to keep airflow constant between the engine nacelle. What is even more impressive is that the airplane flies better than it looks. The handling characteristics are very predictable and docile.  There is no flight control system computer, no hydraulic flight controls, no mach trim system, no other stability assisted systems to aid in flying this airplane. When I would fly a Lear, it felt almost like artificial flying, like I was flying an airplane that was overcoming aerodynamic adversity, and in some ways that was true. The Phenom isn’t as exciting (in a good way).  The control feel is very tactile, and actually a bit heavy on the control feel, especially at high speeds. Although heavy, movement is balanced and predictable. Transitions into the flight levels are effortless. The airplane loves 250 kts until a transition of around .670. The service ceiling is FL450 and the airplane has no problem flying right on up, even at max weight. I remember how funny the Lear 35 felt at FL450, and how many systems were aiding me in stability at that altitude (mach trim, yaw damper etc.) and how mushy that airplane felt. The Phenom hand flies at FL450 like a dream. You can turn the yaw damper off and control feel is just fine. The aircraft is certified with only 1 yaw damper, some Lears have 3! There is a backup “ventral rudder” that is electronically controlled and activates in the event of yaw damper failure.  Perhaps my favorite aspect of this airplane is the way it lands. It is hands down, without a doubt, undisputedly the best landing jet on the planet. Short of having some sort of auto land system that military aircraft are equipped with, the Phenom 300 lands almost just as effortlessly. The trailing link, single truck gear can handle hash landings, and when you flare just right, she touches down so lightly that the passengers don’t even notice. It is seriously impressive.

The Phenom 300 Business Jet
The Phenom 300 Business Jet
Lets get to avionics. Our Phenom 300s are all equipped with the Garmin 3000 Prodigy Touch avionics suite. This is not standard equipment from Embraer, rather it is an option when purchasing. The panel layout consists of a multifunction flight display, two primary flight displays, and two Garmin touch controllers. Yes, the aircraft is actually touch screen. The menu and layout actually resembles a typical smartphone. It is a fantastic part 23 avionics suite. In the airliner and private jet worlds, we all have issues with certain features in the avionics of the aircraft we fly. Without being too mean, I can describe a part 23 jet as being a bit of a baby jet, where as a part 25 certified jet is a grown up jet. Part 25 certification (air transport category) is a stricter, harder certification for aircraft. It is more expensive for manufacturers to certify part 25 because of those extra requirements. The shortcomings in the Phenom 300 are evidenced by the certification differences.

Single engine operations are a bit different, and are not as pleasant as other aircraft.  Also, there is no stick shaker, only a pusher, as a shaker is not required. The avionics are a big part of this. The Garmin 3000 is a fantastic system, a fantastic piston aircraft system. Adapting this system into a jet that goes to 45,000 feet, and blasts through the air at 430 kts can show some weaknesses. First and foremost is a lack of wind sheer avoidance. There is not a true FMS like other avionics suites. The GTCs (Garmin touch controllers) do serve as the flight-planning device for the aircraft, however the GTC doesn’t talk to any aircraft system sensors. Things like weight and balance, performance, endurance,  and takeoff and landing airspeeds have been calculated by many aircraft avionics suites that are much older. The Prodigy suite really lacks in this regard, and in my opinion, really shows its part 23 colors.


Lastly, the environmental control system. I will first say that the Phenom series does not include an APU. Coming from a Citation XLS, I was very worried about not having an APU but I have found that I don’t miss it. The air conditioning system is fantastic. A heat soaked Phenom sitting in the Phoenix sun is no match for that air conditioning. One drawback however is that there is no heater in the Phenom, so in order to warm the cabin you have to fire an engine up.

The Phenom 300 Business Jet

Overall the Phenom 300 is a fantastic aircraft, and in my opinion is really in a class of its own. The VLJ class of aircraft has their niche market, but the Phenom 300 really is a modern business jet, with an owner/operator in mind. It also shines in the charter/fractional world.  I foresee the Phenom line being expanded, although the Legacy 450 is really the future of mid-size to super mid-size business jet aircraft. For now, the Phenom 300 is the most pleasurable jet aircraft I have flown, and I look forward to gaining more experience as I continue to fly them.



– Mark Pollard


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