The entire normal operating checklist for the new Embraer Phenom 100 light business jet fits on both sides of a laminated card that you can slide into a shirt pocket. While other business jets need giant spiral-bound pages upon pages to go through before liftoff, the Phenom is designed to cut pilot workload to a minimum so there is time to focus on the overall situation while the airplane and its systems take care of themselves.
The Phenom 100 is Embraer's first from-scratch business jet, and its design reflects what the company has learned from building its very successful RJ series regional jets, and now its E-Jets in the 170 and 190 series that compete with the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 family. The airlines demand automated and simplified systems, rugged construction, and the ability to fix failures quickly when they do occur. And you can instantly see that philosophy designed into the Phenom.
For example, the Phenom has no avionics master switch. Amazing. But if you think for a moment, why do you need an avionics master? There are no conventional gauges or instruments to look at, so the three big displays of the Garmin system that Embraer calls Prodigy must be up and working to know anything about the status of the airplane. So the entire Prodigy system comes on with the battery switches. But I still think it would be very difficult for business jet makers to make such a leap without the experience of designing a modern airline jet.
The same "if you don't need it, don't include it" philosophy prevails in the rest of the Phenom 100 cockpit. The pre-start checklist is pretty much turn on the two batteries and then rotate one of the engine control knobs to start. When the first engine starter engages, the flashing beacon -- the universal signal of engine start and operation -- automatically turns on, and stays on until the last engine is shut down. The fuel pumps, the generators and the pressurization system simply stay in the automatic mode and check themselves with no need for a separate test routine.
Embraer says the Phenom has 70 percent fewer actions on its checklist than other light jets, but it seems to me that the reduction in required steps is even greater. Some traditionalists will say that Embraer has taken the pilot out of the loop with so much simplification and automation, and I agree. But I would use the word "relieved" the pilot of the mindless and time-consuming chores of switch flipping and gauge reading when those binary tasks are what electronic systems and monitors do best. With those multiple checking steps eliminated, the pilot can focus on the critical issues, such as do I have the correct clearance, am I on the right taxiway, is this the assigned runway, and all of the other complex aspects of flying that only a human can do.
The Phenom 100 is approved for single pilot flight so the cockpit automation is even more important. Embraer's customer information indicates about 20 percent of the jets will be flown by their owners and, as with other light jets, many of those will be stepping up with little or no jet experience.
Embraer has placed the Phenom 100 right in the middle of entry-level business jets with its price tag of approximately $3.5 million. The Phenom cabin is bigger than the less costly Cessna Mustang, and very close in size to the more expensive Citation CJ1+. The Phenom's 390-knot top cruise speed is a tad faster than the CJ1+. And the maximum range of all three jets is over 1,100 nm, and in each jet the achievable range is highly dependent on the ability to climb directly to the airplane's ceiling of 41,000 feet. If air traffic control delays climb, or sends you down far from the destination, as is common in many parts of the United States, range will fall off dramatically.
In addition to its advanced cockpit and simplified systems, Embraer concentrated on cabin comfort in the Phenom 100. The airplane has what the company calls an Oval Lite cabin cross section with the lower half of the fuselage tube pushed out instead of wrapping around in a constant radius as is the norm in pressurized cabins. The wider lower half of the cabin means your feet rest directly in front of you instead of being pushed in toward the center by the curving fuselage wall. The design provides space for a wide seat with plenty of room for your outboard shoulder and head to remain clear of the cabin wall. The design adds virtually nothing to the overall drag because the expanded part of the cabin blends into the wing-body fairing that needs to be there in any case.
The cabin has just 1 inch under 5-foot headroom from the dropped aisle, and is 1 inch over 5 feet wide at your elbow when seated. That is bigger than both of its Citation competitors and also more roomy than the Beech King Air cabin, which has long been a benchmark of light business airplane comfort.