The Praetor 600, Embraer’s new long-range variant of the Legacy 500, boasts 3,750+-nm range as typically equipped while carrying eight passengers. To prove its capabilities, I was invited to fly S/N 20002, the first production aircraft, from Brasilia to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for its debut at this year’s NBAA convention.

The equivalent still-air distance for the mission only was 3,356 nm, but it could potentially be much longer depending upon how many thunderstorms we’d have to skirt over the Amazon and Caribbean, and how strong the actual winds aloft would be.

We also would be limited to FL280 for the first 2,004 nm of the trip because the aircraft is not yet reduced vertical separation minimums (RVSM) approved, or approved for performance-based navigation. The trip promised to be low and slow for the first five hours as we plodded along at 380 to 400 KTAS.

Typical for a demonstrator, S/N 20002 came with dozens of hefty options, including a three-place aft divan; granite-veneer floor and countertops in the galley; refrigerator, microwave and convection ovens; plus coffeemaker, fine china, crystal and stainless-steel flatware; along with head-up display (HUD) and enhanced vision system (EVS), upgraded inflight entertainment (IFE) and provisions for an ultra-high-speed Viasat Ka-band satcom.

As outfitted, it has a 25,279-lb. basic operating weight. But, in contrast to the Legacy 500, the Praetor 600 also has the highest operating weights in the super-midsize class. So, it can carry a 1,700+-lb. payload with a full 15,986 lb. of fuel in the main and auxiliary belly tanks.

We belted into the left seat of PR-ZTX with demo and instructor pilot Captain Sydney Rodrigues in the right seat. Senior experimental test pilot Captain Lidio Bertolini was our safety and relief pilot.

Total payload with passengers and cargo was 1,000 lb. Topped off with fuel, ramp weight was 42,229 lb. Computed takeoff weight was 42,079 lb. We selected flaps 2 (21 deg.) for takeoff. At Brasilia’s 3,497-ft. field elevation and with a 35°C outside air temperature (OAT), V1 and rotation were 125 KIAS, the V2 OEI takeoff safety speed was 131 KIAS, flap retraction speed was 161 KIAS and OEI en-route climb speed was 170 KIAS. Takeoff field length was 5,577 ft. with 10,499 ft. of pavement available on Runway 11L.

Similar to those of other Embraer aircraft we’ve flown, Praetor 600’s systems are automated and checklists are short.

Cleared for takeoff, we armed the auto-throttles and rejected takeoff mode of the optional autobrake system, switched on the LED landing lights and leisurely accelerated down the runway at a weight of 21 tons.

Whoa, we thought at rotation. We had forgotten that Embraer’s fly-by-wire design gurus Fabricio Caldeira and Daniel Ferreira endowed this aircraft with very soft sidestick control forces, even lighter than those of Falcon 8X. It’s important to rest one’s forearm on the adjustable armrest and make small, carefully measured fingertip inputs to assure passenger comfort. Within a few moments, though, we settled into the routine and were smoothly controlling the aircraft, climbing to 10,000 ft. on the ESBUX departure with the GIGLI intersection transition.

Climbing through FL140 on the ESBUX departure procedure, Captain Rodrigues began negotiating with Brasilia Center for a higher cruise altitude. Soon after, he had sweet-talked them into an unrestricted climb to FL410.

Owing to ISA-7°C to ISA-14°C OAT, the aircraft reached FL410 in 30 min. We settled into a 0.77M cruise at a weight of about 40,500 lb. while burning 1,760 lb. per hr. Rodrigues occasionally bumped up thrust to the max continuous rating to increase cruise speed to 0.794M. The higher thrust increased fuel flow to 1,800 to 1,900 lb. per hr. Notably, cabin altitude was only 4,800 ft. The 9.7-psi pressurization system also contributes to the aircraft’s remarkably quiet cabin.

Just an hour later, Rodrigues smiled and told us he was requesting a climb to FL430, the aircraft’s maximum certified cruise altitude, at a weight of 38,600 lb. Wanting to know if the aircraft was capable of the climb at such a high weight, we searched for an OAT indicator on all four Pro Line Fusion screens. As OAT is an essential predictor of high-altitude engine performance, we wanted ready access to the indication without thumbing through submenus.

Nit to pick. OAT only is displayed in the “status” window and a few other hidden locations. It’s not prominently displayed on any of the main PFD or ND screens.

We coaxed the aircraft up to FL430 in 5 min. at just above “green dot” best glide angle of attack, slowing to 0.76M in the process. Once level at FL430, we noted that the cabin altitude was only 5,330 ft., clearly the lowest in the super-midsize class.

We had to maintain max continuous thrust for several minutes to accelerate to 0.784M, slightly faster than long-range cruise speed. Pulling back thrust to max cruise, the aircraft crept down to 0.765M, requiring occasional use of max continuous thrust to push it back up to the desired cruise speed.

 

Memo to self: It’s typically 20°C to 25°C warmer when crossing the North Atlantic than in equatorial regions. Initial cruise altitude between London and New York likely will be FL410 at ISA+10°C OAT. It’ll probably take an hour or two before the aircraft can climb to FL430 on warm days. And FL450 only will be attainable when at least half the fuel has been consumed. We do not know what effect warmer-than-standard OATs will have on maximum range performance.

With large deviations for weather, we were beginning to look closely at fuel reserves. However, Rodrigues’ ability to get approval to climb to FL410 and FL430, then FL450, was beginning to pay dividends, even though we were flying at faster than long-range cruise. By this point, we were 300 lb. ahead of our planned fuel burn, in spite of our zigzag course around the bumpers.

In northwest Brazil, ATC directed us to descend to FL430. This made another feature of the avionics system much appreciated. Embraer insisted on giving the aircraft a flight-level-change function that works both in climbs and descents. While the feature reduces pilot workload, it needs a little refinement in this aircraft. Nose attitude wobbled a bit on the way down as the autopilot chased indicated Mach number.

As we neared Ursus intersection on the US/Cuba ADIZ border, Havana turned us over to Miami Center. Soon we were cleared to fly the DEKAL5 arrival into Ft. Lauderdale. Miami Approach vectored us north of the airport and then turned us inbound ahead of arriving commercial jet traffic.

Rodrigues checked landing weight and V speeds. At an estimated weight of 28,420 lb., VAPP at flaps 20 deg. was 131 KIAS and VREF at flaps 35 deg. was 121 KIAS. With 23 kt. of headwind, we bugged 131 KIAS as our landing speed for the ILS Runway 10R procedure.

This is when we really appreciated the standard and optional equipment in the cockpit, even though ceilings were at 3,000 ft. and it was VFR at the airport. We had been flying for nearly eight hours, and fatigue had started to set in. But the optional HGS-3500 made it easy to hand fly the aircraft smoothly and precisely, especially as the FBW system-control law features flight path stability with gear and flaps retracted. The standard auto-throttle system slashes pilot workload.

As we intercepted the ILS glideslope and extended gear and flaps 20 deg., the FBW control law changed from flight path stable to indicated airspeed stable. The speed neutral point is reset by pressing the touch control steering button on the sidestick, giving the same feel as trimming the aircraft to the set speed in an aircraft with conventional flight controls.

FBW makes this aircraft considerably easier to fly in all regimes, especially during landing. The speed stability control law gives the aircraft a natural aerodynamic feel, but behind the scenes, the FBW system works hard to smooth out and compensate for all the atmospheric imperfections. The sidestick feel reminded us of Gulfstream G500 – but at less than half the price.

“Fifty. 40. 30. 10. 5,” said the radio altimeter as we neared the pavement. With extra 10 kt. for the headwind, we overrode the auto-throttles and pulled back the throttles to idle at 30 ft. The aircraft settled onto the pavement ever so softly, all credit due to the long-travel, trailing-link main landing gear. The $16,500 optional autobrake system, set to position 1, gently slowed the aircraft as we extended the reversers to attenuate idle thrust.

Total time for the trip was 8 hr., 3 min. We landed with 1,800 lb. of fuel, about 100 lb. less than needed for 200-nm NBAA IFR reserves. We estimate that total equivalent still-air distance traveled was 3,550 nm, due to unforecast headwinds aloft and so many deviations to avoid tropical storms.

We would have landed with much fatter fuel reserves if we’d flown the trip at 0.76M-to-0.78M long-range cruise. But instead, we pushed up the thrust and flew at 0.785M to 0.795M for most of the mission. We believe that Praetor operators will fly their aircraft at such speeds or faster, for most missions when maximum-range performance is not an issue.

Conclusions? The aircraft appears to live up to Embraer’s billing. It actually can carry eight-plus passengers with typical options. We flew it more than 3,500 nm with five passengers at high-speed cruise. At long-range cruise, range should touch 3,750 nm with eight people in the cabin or 3,900 nm with four people. But that assumes a near-perfect vertical profile and ISA temperatures aloft. Any way you cut it, though, Embraer is setting new standards for transatlantic-range jets. What else can fly eight passengers from London to New York for $22.5 million?