Almost a year after Embraer flew its first midsize jet, the Legacy 500, the company is preparing to fly its smaller sibling, the Legacy 450. The two models, essentially the same aircraft sized for different markets, are part of the Brazilian airframer's ambitious agenda to offer a product in every major business-jet category.

Embraer filled the entry-level and light-jet niches with its Phenom 100 and 300, the super-midsize and large markets with the Legacy 600/650, and the ultra-large with the Lineage. Now comes the Legacy 500, an aircraft targeted for the midsize market but with a cabin closer to super-midsize.

Delayed more than a year by software issues with its fly-by-wire system, the 500 is now progressing toward certification in the first half of 2014. Embraer actually rolled out the initial 500 in December 2011, but first flight did not follow until November 2012 as it worked to address certification authorities' lingering concerns about the flight control system.

Now, with three prototypes having logged more than 650 of the planned 1,500 hr. of flight tests, authorities appear impressed by the system, says Embraer test pilot Eduardo Camelier. FAA and European Aviation Safety Agency pilots have flown the aircraft within the past six weeks, he says, and their feedback was positive.

While flight testing has not yet hit the halfway point, Embraer has amassed 4,500 hr. of ground evaluations on its “iron bird” and performed 16,000 hr. of systems testing. A good part of this was accomplished before first flight, setting up a smoother test program not only for the 500, but also the 450.

Embraer is checking off key tasks, with test aircraft SN001 undergoing artificial ice-shape trials and scheduled for avionics and autopilot certification, along with steep approach tests. SN002, which flew in February, will be used for natural icing and crosswind tests, along with external noise certification. The aircraft recently completed landing-gear spray trials to evaluate engine water-ingestion on a wet runway.

SN003, meanwhile, made the Legacy 500's first public appearance at the European Business Aviation Conference and Exhibition in May and will fly to Las Vegas for the National Business Aviation Association convention Oct. 22-24. It has undergone avionics and cold-soak tests and is in high-intensity radiated fields and lightning trials now. Future plans include maturity flights, maintenance training and simulator validation.

SN004 is on the assembly line at Embraer's plant here, where both the Legacy 450 and 500 will be built, along with the Phenoms and Legacy 650, which is based on the ERJ 135 regional jet. Embraer is still making room for its newest products at the business-jet assembly plant, shifting some structures work to its factory in Portugal.

Certification of the 450 is expected to follow about a year behind the 500. Marco Tulio Pellegrini, senior vice president and COO of Embraer Executive Jets, says it may well fly by year-end. The the fuselage was joined in August and wings were mated in late September.

With about 95% systems commonality, much of the work accomplished on the 500 can roll over to the 450, particularly for iron-bird trials. Some cables and tubing need to be shortened, but the same rig will be used for 450 testing.

Embraer is working toward a common type rating for both aircraft, which are powered by Honeywell HTF7500E turbofans producing 6,500 lb. thrust for the 500 and 6,080 lb. for the 450. The aircraft share the same cockpit with Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion avionics. Operating procedures and aircraft handling will be the same, says Augusto Salgado da Rocha, senior manager for product strategy and sales engineering.

The primary difference is the target market. With its flat floor, 6-ft. height and 6-ft. width, the 500 cabin is more comparable to that of a super-midsize aircraft. But Salgado da Rocha stresses, “We aren't trying to be super-midsized.” That category typically has ranges of 3,400 nm or more, but he says, “we don't want to go there.” Instead, Embraer is comfortable offering a 3,000-nm-range midsize aircraft with the first full fly-by-wire system in the category. The goal, he says, is to “create a new standard for the segment” with its cabin. The same holds true for the 450, which is shorter but has the same flat floor and cross-section, and nearly 2,300-nm range.

Embraer is not providing details on sales of the 500, which is priced at $18.4 million, more than $1 million less than Cessna's Citation X, but $1 million more than Bombardier's new Learjet 85. It is also mum on the 450, priced at $15.25 million, just above Cessna's new Latitude that will compete head-on with the smaller Legacy.