Flying In The Legacy 500

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Embraer’s new Legacy 500 midsize business jet combines the spritely handling of a smaller, high performance aircraft with the quiet, comfortable cabin and solid power of a much larger, longer range jet.

That was my immediate reaction after being among the first group of journalists to sample a recent flight in the Legacy 500, the much-anticipated initial deliveries of which will begin early this summer. Despite pressures on the flight test program, which was almost 90% complete at the time of my visit in early April, Embraer sought special permission from the Brazilian airworthiness authority to interrupt the effort for our passenger demo flight.

The aircraft for our sortie was PT-ZHY, the fourth Legacy 500, and the most recent member of the test fleet.  Outfitted with most of the latest interior features to be shown at EBACE, the only concession visible in the cabin to the on-going certification effort was the presence of a test instrumentation station manned by Gustavo Borges de Oliveira, an Embraer flight test engineer who was monitoring systems performance as part of the function and reliability evaluation which forms the final phase of the program.

On entering the aircraft the first impression was of the spaciousness created by the cabin’s 6-ft 10-in width and 6-ft tall height.  Aircraft 004’s interior was configured with four main passenger seats, and a new feature – a three-place, side-facing divan on the starboard side. Opposite this optional divan, which replaces two conventional seat positions was the flight test engineers station.  Aft was the optional belted toilet seat and access through to the voluminous, 40 cubic foot internal baggage compartment.  Together with a 110 cubic foot external baggage area the Legacy 500 has 150 cubic feet of stowage space.  Standard seating configurations provide capacity for between eight and 12 passengers.

With Embraer test pilots Euclides Robert Neto and Lidio Bertolini Neto in the cockpit, we departed to the north from runway 33 at Sao Jose dos Campos and climbed quickly to 19,000 ft. With a thrust rating of 6,500 lb. the Legacy 500’s twin Honeywell HTF7500E turbofans produce excellent climb performance but cabin noise levels are negligible, even at full power.  With a Bon Jovi track playing on the cabin sound system, we overflew the mountainous resort area of Campos do Jordao which was visible through the large windows. Cabin pressure altitude is a comfortable 6,000 ft. which allows higher levels of ambient humidity than most of its mid-size competitors.

Other features on display included the fully reclining seats which allow two positions to be converted into a single lie-flat couch, foldaway and bulkhead-mounted 17.5 inch wide high definition LCD displays, Blu-ray player and an iPad which can be used to control various cabin elements including lighting, sound system and window blinds. More recently developed items include sideledge stowage areas and translating covers over handy ‘gadget’ stowage places on the arms of the divan.

With the capability to fly 3,000 nm, this fly-by-wire, Mach 0.82 would seem to be good value for its almost $20 million list price, as the growing orderbook for this long-anticipated midsize jet indicates.

PILOT REPORT: Our chief aircraft evaluation pilot, Fred George, is the first journalist to fly left seat in the Legacy 500.

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