Embraer recently revealed a number of intriguing new details on the Legacy 450 and 500, the midsize jets that it officially launched 18 months ago. The jets are still a couple of years away from first deliveries, but Embraer has already defined them in great detail.
At face value, it might seem that Embraer picked a bad time for the expensive task of developing a pair of sophisticated business jets. Times are tough, and the midsize market has been the hardest hit segment. But with the Legacy 500 and 450 heading toward 2012 and 2013 first deliveries, respectively, the timing might be just right. Assuming some kind of general economic recovery, the two jets (along with the likewise remarkable Gulfstream G250) are going to create quite a stir in the market, as well as a new set of expectations among customers looking to go midsize.
Not too long ago such a scenario seemed unlikely, to say the least. It was just in 2002 that Embraer delivered its first Legacy 600 bizjet, a product derived from the EMB 145, one of the regional jets that made Embraer a widely recognized aviation brand in the United States. With the Legacy launch, Embraer also declared that it was making a serious entry into the business jet market and planned to launch a complete lineup of bizjets, from the entry level to the ultra-large. It was big talk.
Seven years later, Embraer has delivered on that promise, and then some. It has delivered more than 150 Legacy 600 jets — an achievement that was surprising even to Embraer — and has expanded its lineup to include the entry-level Phenom 100, the light and fast Phenom 300 and the ultra-large-cabin, long-range Lineage 1000. At the same time, it has established a global network dedicated to providing support for its business aircraft, with a 24/7 call center and service centers around the world, including three in the United States.
Embraer is smart to remind potential customers of its airline heritage. With experience supporting thousands of commercial airplanes in settings around the world, and with a track record of building high-dispatch-reliability airliners, it has some real credibility on the subject.
A Solid Foundation
At first glance, the Legacy 450, which Embraer calls a "light-midsize" jet, and the Legacy 500, a true midsize, look like just another pair of midsize jets entering a market that already has its share of them, some of them very well respected and established.
But in nearly every respect, Embraer's new airplanes will give its existing competitors fits, delivering a package that's technologically revolutionary and aesthetically ambitious while delivering projected best-in-class or near-best-in-class performance and comfort across the board.
As is clear by looking at them, the two jets were developed in tandem. The 500 is a rangier, more expensive, slightly stretched version of the 450. The two will share a type rating, with differences training for pilots transitioning from one to the other.
The 500 typically will be delivered with a double-club-plus-one interior (for nine passenger seats total); the 450 will be outfitted with two fewer seats.
The cabins are identical in cross-section. Passengers get a flat-floor, 6-foot-tall cabin with a 6-foot-10-inch width, previously unheard-of room in a midsize jet. The windows are large (Embraer says the largest in their class) and are positioned in the Legacy 500 to provide a window between each facing seat and one at each headrest.
Designed in conjunction with BMW Designworks, the interiors (at least the artist's conceptions of them) are strikingly beautiful and practical. On the 500, there's a wet galley, 150 cubic feet combined of interior and exterior baggage space, and the stylish lavs in both airplanes will feature a vacuum toilet (the gold standard), a hard door and full vanity.