. . . And Least-Liked Features
Topping the Dislike List for owner-operators is the Phenom 300's touchy brakes. Operators say the multiple disc, carbon heat packs are very effective at stopping the aircraft, but the brake-by-wire (BBW) system's feel and modulation are challenging, especially when the brakes are warm. is exploring a modification that would change the range of motion of the brake pedals and also modify the spring rates, similar to the system developed for the Phenom 100. Brake Control Unit version 7 is the most recent release of the BBW box. It's intended to improve brake modulation, but operators give it mixed reviews. BCU-8 now is in development and it should improve brake modulation as well as enhance anti-skid performance.
In the interim, many pilots have adapted their brake pedal modulation technique to the quirks in the system. For smooth stopping, they say they have to lead braking action with gentle pedal pressure and be patient for the brakes to take hold when the heat packs are warm. However, the aircraft has power braking action, including on contaminated runways. If maximum deceleration is needed, they just bury the pedals all the way forward and let the anti-skid system work as designed to stop the aircraft in the minimum distance.
Fleet and fractional operators have different priorities. For them, wing flap and multifunction spoiler problems top the list. Flight Control Electronics unit malfunctions have been the top cause of AOG dispatch failures. To address the problem, Embraer is developing an improved FCE unit that should be more reliable. (Please see “Top 25 AOG Causes”)
Tire wear is another concern. Some operators are wearing out tires in less than 100 landings. Replacement tires appear to be more durable. Operators now are getting 180 to 200 cycles out of a pair of main landing gear tires. Some say that the lack of thrust reversers or attenuators contributes to excessive tire wear. However, there are no plans to retrofit such devices to the engines or to offer thrust reversers as an option because of the additional weight penalty and complexity of adding another hydraulically powered system.
Most operators also believe the aircraft's twin 36AH batteries are undersized, wearing out in as little as 15 months. They say they use ground power units to start the aircraft whenever feasible, particularly in cold weather. In addition, they say that the aircraft is very sensitive to slight fluctuations in GPU voltage. Small variances cause the aircraft to open the external power relay, thereby disconnecting the GPU from the aircraft. Hiccups in GPU power are not rare when ground power is used to supply the vapor cycle air-conditioner to cool the cabin prior to engine start.
Embraer is looking into fitting the aircraft with more-powerful batteries, an upgrade that some operators very much want. In the meantime, the manufacturer requires the batteries to be changed every 24 months.
Both the cockpit side and cabin windows are prone to frosting over during high-altitude cruise. Embraer is exploring a fix for the problem as it also is a common gripe of Phenom 100 operators.
Engine inlets have been prone to cracking around rivets. Embraer developed a Service Bulletin to replace the original inlets with improved units. Most aircraft have been retrofitted with the upgrade, but there's still a fleet-wide requirement to inspect the inlets for cracks at 100-hr. intervals.
Some operators, particularly those who frequently use airports in mountainous terrain, complain that being restricted to Flaps 3 (26 deg.), rather than being able to use full landing Flaps 4 (35 deg.), doesn't provide enough drag to control speed during steep approaches, particularly in gusty winds. However, approval to use full flaps was recently granted by Brazilian, U.S. and European airworthiness certification authorities. Retrofit kits now are available and new aircraft are being delivered with the upgrade.
The Phenom 300 is all about function over form, substance over style, because of its Embraer jetliner DNA. That's also a shortcoming, some operators say. The outside and inside appearance of the aircraft, in its present configuration, isn't on a par with other light jets, particularly archrival CJ4. The aluminum leading edges of the wings, for instance, cannot be polished to a chrome-like sheen. The exterior paint doesn't hold up well when exposed to weather.
The BMW Designworks interior may be functional, but it's austere compared to the cabins of a Citation CJ, Premier IA, Hawker 400XP or40/45XR. The upholstery materials don't hold up well in heavy service, the bright metal trim on the center aisle sides mars easily, the cupholders are too shallow and using the electrical power outlets in the sidewalls props open the access doors, thereby denying the use of the side ledge as an armrest.
Industry sources tell BCA that Embraer is well aware of such operator concerns and that a substantial interior upgrade will be announced in fourth quarter 2013. In support of this effort, the firm hired Jay Beever, famed for his new product completions work at, to “take [the interior] to the next step,” according to Marco Tulio Pellegrini, Embraer's senior vice president operations and COO of Embraer Executive Jets.
The next major Prodigy cockpit up–grade will be available during the same timeframe, one that will make possible user-defined holding patterns, baro-altitude-based vertical navigation and WAAS LPV approaches.