One of the things I love best about airplanes is their back stories. While the Embraer Legacy 650 is a brand-new airplane, its story stretches back 30 years to when the Brazilian company first decided to start building airliners.
My personal tour of the cockpit of the Embraer Legacy 650 immediately reminded me of the airplane’s airline heritage. Its massive console, extensive collection of overhead panel switches, heavy-duty sideways-tracking crew seats, array of colorful displays stretching across the wide span of the panel, jumpseat and secure door all painted a picture of an airplane that originally was built for revenue flying, for the constant start-ups and bumpy landings, for the thousand hours a year, or more, of flying, and for all of the abuse that implies. At least up at the front of the airplane, the 650 still has all the airliner trappings.
From the crew door back, however, it’s even clearer that the Legacy 650, which earned certification earlier this year, is all business — or pleasure. The transformation from people mover to business machine is remarkable.
To create the jet, Embraer improved upon the large and comfortable cabin of the company’s successful Legacy 600 bizjet and added power, extra range, enhanced avionics, improved hot-and-high capability and even greater luxury to create an airplane that’s very much like the Legacy 600 but better in just about every way.
All other improvements aside, the additional range was the driving factor in the creation of the 650, since many of Embraer’s customers had been asking specifically for that feature. As much as they loved the 600’s creature comforts, they needed the extra range to connect some city pairs that the 600 just couldn’t link. For a remarkable number of those highly desirable city pairs, the 650 succeeded in doing just that and then some.
Legacy Times Two
Exactly how a company arrives at a business jet — and there are a number of paths that can lead to that ultimate product — is a story in itself. In this case, the story is that of a successful airliner manufacturer that decided to test the business jet market by first dipping a single toe in the water. The instrument of that tentative foray was the Legacy. It was, in essence, a bizzed-up version of the company’s remarkably successful regional airliner. Embraer has to date sold more than 1,100 of its ERJ 135 and ERJ 145 regional jets. But 10 years ago, how well a business version of an RJ would sell was anybody’s guess.