The Phenom 300 has received strong endorsement from fleet and fractional ownership operators including Executive AirShare, Flight Options and NetJets. “This aircraft offers comfort, including a wide air-stair door and a wide oval cabin cross-section, efficiency, range and a quiet interior, all things clients like [pro golfer] Tom Watson appreciate,” says Keith Plumb, president of Kansas City, Mo.-based Executive AirShare, which operates five Phenom 300s. Plumb also noted that the aircraft is reliable and it was designed with airline-inspired maintenance scheduling. Basic inspection intervals are 600 hr. or 12 months, whichever comes first.
“This is our first new light jet in the fleet and it's 'phenomenal.' It has great runway performance, it's quiet, the air conditioning works great and it has large baggage volume,” says Joe Kainrad, Phenom 300 program manager at Cleveland-based Flight Options, which operates more than a dozen such aircraft and has 100 firm orders plus 50 options. “I love the ease of maintenance. It's as if mechanics had inputs to the engineers,” says Melanie Nehez, Flight Options Phenom 300 fleet technical manager. The airframe has a fully MSG3-compliant maintenance-friendly design that speeds scheduled maintenance tasks and expedites parts removal and replacement.
In early May, Columbus, Ohio-based NetJets took delivery of the first of 50 Signature Series Phenom 300s it has on order. The fractional provider also has options for another 75 units, representing a total potential investment of $1 billion. This is NetJets' first foray into the light jet market in five years and its first acquisition of an Embraer jet. Industry analysts say that the move represents a strategic shift for NetJets, which had been a large-scale purchaser of Wichita-made business aircraft before it retrenched with the deepening of the recession.
The Phenom 300 has a 28,000 cycle/35,000 hr. economic life that's more in line with jetliner design standards than the 15,000- to 20,000-hr. design life of a typical light jet. Such a comparatively long service life is attractive for charter and fractional ownership operators that typically trade out of their aircraft when they've amassed 8,000 to 12,000 hr. of flight time.
Cessna's CJ4 is the light jet that's the Phenom 300's closest rival. But Phenom 300 operators said they chose the Brazilian jet over the one made in Wichita because of cabin size, superior fuel efficiency and higher ramp presence, along with longer service life, lower maintenance costs and its jetliner heritage.
More than half of the Phenom 300 fleet is registered in the U.S. That portion likely will increase as NetJets takes delivery of its aircraft during the next two years and as more aircraft are delivered to rival Flight Options as well.
Most of the U.S.-registered fleet is operated by single-aircraft entrepreneurial ventures, including smaller hedge funds, investment holding companies and engineering firms, along with software development firms, small energy companies and even a Harley-Davidson modification firm in Los Angeles. A large portion of these aircraft are owner flown, a demographic that is rare outside of North America.
Only a few medium-size U.S. corporations fly the Phenom 300, such as Masco and EMC with multiple aircraft flight departments. It's typically the smallest aircraft in their fleets, primarily used for shorter range missions where its fuel efficiency and runway performance are advantageous.
Brazilian operators account for about one-sixth of the fleet. Among these are banking concerns, agricultural products companies and charter operators, along with some entrepreneurs, import/export firms and even the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, based in a São Paulo suburb.