Last Sunday, Marco Túlio Pellegrini, president and CEO of Embraer Executive Jets, invited us to belt into the left seat of the Phenom 100E at Orlando Executive Airport to evaluate key improvements the firm has made to the product line at serial number 325 and subsequent. Among these are computer-controlled speed brakes/ground spoilers, the latest Garmin updates to the Prodigy flight deck and interior upgrade options that improve passenger comfort and operational utility.

“We know that the ground spoilers will shorten landing distances. But we’re not taking credit for the modification because we want to give pilots extra (stopping performance) margins,” says Túlio. Pilots also will benefit from being able to create user-defined holding patterns and have FMS guidance for virtually all ARINC 424 procedure legs. New interior options are available, including full-service forward or aft galleys, wood veneers for cabinetry and 11 interior décor selections, plus Phenom 300-style chairs with lateral and longitudinal tracking, 180-degree swivel and near full-flat recline seat backs.

Accompanied by demo pilot Taylor Hinz in the right seat of N100EE, we ran through the short pre-start checklist and started the right engine. Immediately on the 82ËšF day, we were reminded of how well the vapor-cycle air-conditioning cools the aircraft interior, even when the aircraft has been sitting in the sun for a prolonged period. Hinz said that the DC-powered hydraulic power pack, used to actuate the landing gear and antiskid wheel brakes, has been beefed up with a larger pump and reservoir to accommodate the additional load of the speed brakes.

Hinz explained that the ground spoilers automatically extend on landing with the thrust levers at idle and weight on wheels. They remain extended for 30 seconds or until the thrust levers are advanced, such as in the case of a touch-and-go landing. In flight, the panels function as speed brakes when manually selected at speeds above 182 KIAS and with the flaps retracted. Slowing the aircraft below the retraction trigger speed or extending the flaps causes the speed brakes to retract and initiates appearance of a “speed brake disagree” annunciator in the EICAS advisory window. Selecting “retract” on the speed brake switch extinguishes the EICAS advisory.

After starting the second engine, we taxied to Runway 7. An airplane symbol, depicting our position on the geo-referenced airport diagram displayed on the MFD, made it easy to follow ground control’s taxi instructions. Hinz computed V speeds of 105 for V1, 106 for rotation and 108 for V2.

Once 100E was airborne, its flight characteristics proved to be nearly identical to those of the original aircraft. It’s easy to fly, but pitch-trim response lags thumb-switch inputs and there is noticeable thrust/pitch coupling.

We climbed to FL200 over the Atlantic near Cape Canaveral, coupled the autopilot and pulled back the thrust levers to less than max cruise power. The aircraft accelerated to 220 KIAS. We then extended the speed brakes, reduced thrust and allowed the aircraft to decelerate. At 182 KIAS, the speed brakes automatically retracted, providing a level of automatic under speed protection. Then we resumed normal cruise and requested a high-speed descent. Using idle thrust and with speed brakes extended at near redline speed, descent rate was as high as 5,600 fpm, enabling us to level off at 8,000 ft in less than three minutes.

Then we proceeded to Melbourne for a couple of touch-and-goes on Runway 9R. Hinz computed VREF at 97 KIAS. After touchdown, the ground spoilers automatically extended even though we hadn’t touched the speed brake switch. The difference in aircraft deceleration is noticeable. Once the trim and flaps were reset for takeoff, we advanced the thrust levers, causing the speed brakes to retract. We accelerated and took off.

Returning to Orlando Executive, we lined up a maximum-performance landing on Runway 7. After touchdown, we pressed down hard on the brake pedals. Stopping performance was impressively smooth and powerful. Directional control during maneuver, though, was more challenging than in some other light jets we’ve flown.

Embraer has about 30 orders for Phenom 100E, reflecting the continued softness in the entry-level jet market, says Túlio. But once the market rebounds, Embraer will be better positioned with the upgraded Phenom 100E to convince window-shoppers to place firm orders.