On a crystal clear southern California day, we headed out to give me some stick time in the 100, an airplane I’ve flown a couple of times before though not recently. In the cockpit with me was Embraer’s chief pilot, Alex Theodoro, who briefed me on the airplane and our trip from Van Nuys, up to 41,000 feet, north along the airways and then, eventually, back to Van Nuys. It was a gorgeous day. The flight promised to be a fun one.
We were pretty heavy, with three and bags aboard and a lot of fuel. With a maximum takeoff weight of 10,470 pounds available, we were right at 10,050 pounds, giving us the ability to have taken a couple more adults with us at 200 pounds apiece plus their light bags while still having the range that day, based on the Prodigy’s very handy range ring, to fly to Texas.
On the takeoff roll from 16R at KVNY with a single notch of flaps, the Phenom 100 accelerated quickly. Our calculated takeoff distance that day out of Van Nuys was right around 3,000 feet, and the rotation speed was just over 100 knots. The 100 feels quick on the runway, though it’s not hard to keep it within a foot or so of the centerline. Rotation is smooth and positive, with no tendency to overrotate.
Just as I’d remembered, the Phenom 100 hand-flies great, with smooth, solid and nicely harmonized responses. The implementation of the trim is just about right, fast enough to reassure you that something is happening without being so fast that you can accidentally overtrim.
The power lever on this fadec airplane is set up with visual presets, from idle up to max cruise, then max continuous/climb power, then takeoff go-around power and, finally, maximum power, which is essentially an emergency setting that gives you more than 100 percent rated power. There’s a bit of a detent before you can push the throttles there.
The Pratt & Whitney PW617F-E turbofans put out 1,695 pounds of thrust apiece, and they are remarkably quiet and efficient. They seem a smart choice for the 100, giving it a combination of good climbing ability, excellent fuel economy (rivaling turboprop twins), decent range and best-in-class high-speed cruise of 390 knots.
Eventually ATC cleared us up to 41,000 feet, though only after giving us an unpublished hold on an intersection off of the Avenal VOR. We were OK with that because it was an absolutely smooth day at every altitude. The only bumps we felt on the hold were when we flew through our own wake on one lap. Then there was the view: the Sierras, snow-capped and blue in the distant haze, and the far Pacific coast, shrouded in a late spring marine layer. It was vintage southern California scenery.
For long-range flights, Phenom 100 pilots usually fly their airplanes up high, and you can see why. At the airplane’s ceiling of 41,000 feet, we were indicating Mach 0.60 on a total of around 520 pounds per hour (less than 80 gph). Nice. For faster speeds you’ll want to drop down a lot and plan for cruise speeds approaching 400 knots.
On descent it was easy to keep it at just under the barber pole, which is 275 knots, which is nice for the drive down to 10,000 feet since you can cover a lot of ground quickly. We used the vertical navigation utility in the Prodigy flight deck to plan our crossing altitude of 11,000 feet on the north arrival into Van Nuys, and the controller then stair-stepped us down on the arrival. On base, however, we were still at 5,000 feet, which is 2,000 feet higher than the published segment altitude. When we asked for lower, the controllers weren’t rude. They just ignored us.
Oh, well, the gear and flap speeds are high enough for it not to matter much, happily. The flap settings went from 10 degrees to two notches of 26 degrees (there’s a difference in stick pusher logic; there’s no shaker) and then full flaps at 36 degrees. The flaps are unusual in that they deploy separately on the left and right sides, a strategy that requires software monitoring to ensure they deploy symmetrically.
Landing the 100 is straightforward. As you descend on glideslope at Vref, you’re naturally slightly nose-high. The way the engines are positioned, pulling the power to idle as you cross the numbers raises the pointy end just a bit, putting the airplane into a near ideal flare attitude — Alex said that you might want to flare “imperceptibly.” It’s almost automatic. Despite my dive-bomber approach, my landing felt just right.
I braked as smoothly as I could, but we still wandered just a little. It’s hard not to relax pressure, but with brake by wire, you need to keep strong, steady pressure. The rollout was short and pretty straight. With a little practice, I’m sure I could get the feel for the brakes just fine, though it looks as though Embraer will, with its upgrades, be taking care of much of the hard work for me.
The Embraer 100 is no longer a brand-new or unknown airplane. It’s been a good seller for Embraer, and its dispatch reliability, which was, as I mentioned, spotty early on, is now simply very good and getting better.
The airplane is a wonder, a high-tech entry-level rocket ship with a large, light-filled and comfortable cabin along with plenty of range, good speed and a ramp presence that says in no uncertain terms that you’ve arrived … even before you’ve lit the fires for the first flight of the day.