A decade ago, some people scoffed when Embraer announced its intention to create a complete line of business airplanes, from entry-level jets to behemoth bizliners, especially when the sum total of the company’s bizav experience to that point had been creating the Legacy 600 from the ERJ-135 regional jet. But once the Phenom series of light jets — the 100 and the 300 models, both capable of operation with a single pilot — appeared, people began paying much closer attention to what the Brazilian company was creating. By the end of 2014, the Phenom 300 had become the most delivered business jet in the world and earned the same honor again in 2015. By then, nobody was scoffing anymore.

In April 2008, Embraer announced another series of jets designed to neatly fit between the Phenom 300 and the Legacy 600/650. The company again surprised some observers when it revealed that the new airplanes, called the Embraer Legacy 450 and the 500, would be completely fly-by-wire machines, something unheard of in the midsize jet category. Also, the two new aircraft are so similar that only the sharpest eyes will notice the Legacy 500 is a slightly longer cabin version of the 450. The Embraer Legacy 450's first flight in December 2013 came about a year after the 500 first took to the sky. By mid-2016 the company had delivered 31 Legacy 500s and three 450s.

When the mid-light Legacy 450, as Embraer calls it, was being engineered, the expected range stood at approximately 2,300 nm with four passengers on board. By the time the 450 was officially announced at the 2013 NBAA Convention in Las Vegas, the airplane's range had climbed to 2,500 nm after a slight increase in engine thrust. When Flying evaluated the 450 at the company's Melbourne, Florida, production facility recently, test pilots had already proven the machine capable of flying nearly 2,600 nm with the same load. Then, just to keep things interesting, Embraer recently announced another range boost to just over 2,900 nm, with a 329 nm reserve and no payload changes thanks to some minor wing alterations that made room for more fuel. Not wanting early-delivery 450 owners to be left behind (since the first aircraft left the factory in December 2015), the mod was announced as retrofittable at no cost.

Embraer Legacy 450
The Legacy 450 is powered by a pair of Honeywell HTF7500E turbofan engines.Erich Shibata

All range numbers were quoted at long-range cruise power setting, of course, although shoving the throttle full up doesn’t slice much from the total distance. The new longer-distance version of the 450 will also operate with a 35,274-pound maximum takeoff weight. The range updates make trips from Shanghai to Jakarta, San Francisco to Hawaii, or Munich to Bahrain possible, with the jet’s speed hovering around 463 knots or about Mach 0.83 at max cruise.

August 2016 prices for a Embraer Legacy 450 stood at $16.57 million, with buyers waiting approximately 12 months from order to delivery. Interestingly, the 500 model sells for just $3.4 million more, but it offers only 200 additional miles of range, although capacity issues change when both airplanes are fully fueled. The Legacy 450 seats a maximum of nine, while the 500 carries as many as 12 people in the cabin. Both the 450 and the 500 share a 9.6 psi max differential pressure, creating a comfortable 6,000-foot maximum cabin pressurization level at 45,000 feet. The two business jets also share a common type rating, making operating a couple of each a snap from a pilot-training perspective. The first Embraer Legacy 450 is expected to roll out of Embraer’s new expanded Melbourne manufacturing facility in December.

Embraer Legacy 450
The 450’s customizable cabin includes four fully reclining club seats, which convert into a pair of sleeping berths. Large windows provide plenty of natural light in the aft cabin.Erich Shibata

Inside the Jet

Embraer sees Textron’s Citation Latitude as the closest competitor to the Legacy 450. It says the Legacy 450 bests the Latitude in speed, payload and range, but not in cabin comfort, where the two aircraft are pretty evenly matched.

The 450’s cabin, 6 feet high on a flat floor and 6 feet 10 inches wide, comes standard with four fully reclining club seats that easily convert into a pair of sleeping berths. An optional wet galley in the forward fuselage can be traded for a two-seat belted divan. An optional belted potty seat on the 450 will bring the seating capacity to nine. The slightly longer cabin of the Legacy 500 offers the option for two three-seat divans in the rear to increase the passenger complement to an even dozen.

The 450’s standard cabin includes a small refreshment center near the door, a rear private lavatory with a vacuum toilet that includes a window for natural light and an inflight-accessible baggage area. Embraer said the Legacy 450’s 150-cubic-foot baggage space — 110 cubic feet in the main externally accessed compartment and 45 cubic feet accessible from the rear of the cabin — is the largest in the 450’s category. Honeywell’s Ovation Select cabin management system runs the optional high-definition video and surround-sound audio environment, while the optional voice and Wi-Fi-enabled connectivity offer Inmarsat, Gogo or Iridium platforms with inflight data speeds of up to 3.1 Mbps.

Embraer Legacy 450
Honeywell’s Ovation Select cabin management system provides entertainment for the passengers.Erich Shibata

The Legacy 450 is the first business jet under $50 million to offer full fly-by-wire technology featuring sidestick flight controls and a Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion avionics suite with four 15.1-inch high-resolution LCD displays. The cockpit offers an optional enhanced-vision system with a head-up display.

A pair of Honeywell HTF7500E turbofans provides 6,540 pounds of thrust per engine to rocket the Embraer Legacy 450 off the ground to 43,000 feet in just 22 minutes. A climb to FL 450 will be possible later as the aircraft becomes lighter. While the maximum payload of the 450 — 2,921 pounds — is slightly more than that of the 500 — 2,800 pounds — the larger model can carry nearly twice the load of the 450 when also carrying maximum fuel. At the 35,759-pound maximum takeoff weight, the Legacy 450 typically requires about 4,000 feet of takeoff runway.

Embraer Legacy 450
Passengers and pilots need not go thirsty or hungry in flight thanks to the refreshment center.Erich Shibata

Flying the Embraer Legacy 450

I couldn't have asked for a better summer day as I approached N801EE at Melbourne International Airport (KMLB). The winds were light with just a few clouds in the area. The aircraft door was already open and the APU running as I was introduced to my right-seat instructor, Embraer senior demo pilot Rich Brimer.

As I entered the airplane and looked back, I had the feeling I had just climbed into an expensive automobile, with a clean, comfortable cabin staring back at me. As it turns out, Embraer used the BMW folks early on to help design the cockpit and the cabins, although that work is now carried out in house.

But the moment I entered the cockpit, it was clear that something was missing — the control wheel, which was replaced by the sidestick to operate the fly-by-wire controls. Because of the seat placement and flexibility, getting settled required no special gymnastics. The flight deck has a clean look with no switches sticking out anywhere. The cockpit windows are large, admitting plenty of light, which I assumed would make it easier to search for other traffic, something we old-time pilots still do quite a bit.

As I entered the airplane and looked back, I had the feeling I had just climbed into an expensive automobile, with a clean, comfortable cabin staring back at me.

Because the cockpit was already powered up, the resolution on those four big LCD displays that bring the Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion system to life was immediately clear. Colors didn’t just appear, they popped from the screens. Our demo aircraft was fitted with light-beige leather seats and side panels in both the cockpit and cabin that added to the feel of a premium machine. Because today’s flight decks require regular software updates to keep them operating at peak performance, the Legacy 450 rid operators of the need to download updates to a flash drive and carry them out to the airplane. Rockwell Collins servers can accomplish most of the heavy lifting via Wi-Fi or even cell data connections in as little as 15 minutes. The system is so simple that it allows the cockpit crew to handle the duties.

Once the engines were powered up using the simple stop-run-start switches, Brimer explained there were only six items to consider for the after-start checks before we moved to the subtleties of taxiing using the 450’s steer-by-wire function. All steering is handled through the rudders, even when the pilot is getting into and out of tight spots on the ground. At 10 knots or less, the nosewheel swings 62 degrees either way. As the 450 picks up speed, the amount of available turn decreases.

The basic operating weight of N801EE the day we flew it was 23,280 pounds. With an outside air temperature of 24 degrees C, 125 pounds of stuff and about 6,000 pounds of fuel, the 450’s ramp weight was well below the maximum of 35,274 pounds (35,759 in the 2,900 nm versions). The combined weight of the three of us on board added another 525 pounds. All fuel (10,851 pounds max) is carried in the wings. We calculated a requirement for 3,574 feet of runway for takeoff.

Embraer Legacy 450
The Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion avionics system.Erich Shibata

Initial and recurrent pilot training for the Embraer Legacy 450 is conducted by FlightSafety International and runs three weeks, with a week and a half of that time devoted to ground school, including the avionics. That’s where the crew learns the 450 uses three generators: two mains (one on each engine) and a third mounted to the APU. In an emergency, there’s also a deployable ram air turbine. Both of the 24-volt DC NiCad batteries sit inside the pressure vessel, although there are also two lead-acid backup batteries, one to power the flight controls and the other for the fuel system. The 450 comes standard with a triple-redundant hydraulic system powered by two engine-driven pumps and a single electric backup. Fueling the 450 is handled by a single-point system.

Brimer and I reviewed the intricacies of the FBW system that uses no mechanical linkages to the ailerons, rudder or elevator, saving weight and avoiding potential maintenance problems. The FBW operates in one of two modes: normal, in which everything is computer controlled, providing total flight envelope protection, or direct, when the 450 will behave more like a regular airplane.

As we lined up on Runway 9R at KMLB, I advanced the throttles with the auto-throttles, bringing them to maximum. Steering was solid and the ground roll swift. With only a slight move with my left wrist on the sidestick, the 450 was climbing. At maximum power down low, the vertical speed hovered between 3,000 and 3,500 fpm at an airspeed of 200 knots. I hand-flew the airplane into the mid-teens, occasionally noticing again that only minimal wrist movements on the sidestick were needed to convince the 450 to follow my turn commands. We made a few intermediate stops in the climb to check handling and fuel flow.

At 18,000 feet I wanted to experience how the envelope protections might handle a pilot who mismanaged the bird. With the autopilot and autothrottles on, I commanded an airspeed that pitched the nose of the 450 down. As the tape along the left side of the primary flight display approached the red overspeed region, the autothrottles came back and the nose pitched up on its own to remain within engineered safety parameters. When we tried a few stalls, the airplane handled much the same and pitched down to reduce angle of attack with no input from me. We also tried operating in direct mode and slowed the aircraft again to near stall. Even holding the stick back all the way, the airplane descended at 500 fpm but remained pretty much wings level.

Continuing the climb again, the 450 held 2,000 fpm, and near FL 290 the speed changed to Mach 0.76, with the Honeywell turbofans burning about 1,400 pounds per side. Trying a few manual turns, pilots not used to FBW will be surprised to see the aircraft simply maintain a 35-degree angle of bank when they release the side-stick. About then, they’ll also notice there’s no trim button on the Legacy 450 because the FBW is way ahead of the pilot on that. Through 37,000 feet, fuel flow dropped to 1,100 pounds per side with a vertical speed of 1,500 fpm. Once we leveled off at FL 410, I climbed out of the left seat to walk back to the cabin to listen for a while. Besides the cabin looking quite swank, the noise level at Mach 0.82 was better than OK; it was truly superb. I asked Brimer to pull the power back to long-range cruise, which slowed the 450 some, but I didn’t notice any difference in the cabin sound level at the slower speed.

We headed back to KMLB for a few approaches and landings. In the descent, the 450 easily descended at 3,200 fpm with no noticeable rumble when the speedbrakes were deployed at about 280 knots. I let the autopilot conduct the 9R ILS down to 800 feet, at which I disconnected and hand-flew the remainder of the approach. The transition to manual flight in the landing configuration was smooth. Because our demo aircraft was equipped with autobrakes, I let the 450’s brake-by-wire system handle the stopping. We were slowed to taxi speed in about 1,600 feet.

My landings? I’d call them perfect, of course, but it would be really tough to tell for sure, because the trailing link gear on the 450 will probably make all but the worst pilots look pretty impressive to the folks riding in the cabin.

Legacy 450

Price $16,570,000
Engine Honeywell HTF7500E (two)
Power 6,540 pounds of thrust
TBO On condition
Seats 7 to 9
Length 64 feet 7 inches
Height 21 feet 1 inch
Wingspan 66 feet 5 inches
Cabin Length 24 feet
Cabin Height 6 feet
Cabin Width 6 feet 10 inches
Max Ramp Weight 35,406 pounds
Max Takeoff Weight 35,274 pounds
Basic Operating Weight 22,928 pounds
Payload with Full Fuel 1,627 pounds
Max Usable Fuel 10,851 pounds
Max Landing Weight 32,518 pounds
Takeoff Runway 3,907 feet
Landing Runway 2,090 feet
MMO Mach 0.83
VMO 320 kias
Range (long range) 2,904 nm
Range (high speed) 2,794 km
Time to Climb to FL 370 14 minutes
Max Operating Altitude 45,000 feet
Initial Cruise Altitude 43,000 feet