Embraer Phenom 300

By By Fred George fred_george@aviationweek.com
Source: Business & Commercial Aviation

Single point pressure refueling (SPPR) is a strong point, a feature that the Phenom 300 shares only with the CJ4 and current production Learjets in the light jet class. SPPR is a near must for some corporate and fleet operators and is especially advantageous when refueling in inclement weather because it minimizes the chance of water contaminating the fuel. It also keeps the fuel truck clear of the left side of the airplane, thereby facilitating the loading of passengers and baggage.

Ease of maintenance is a big plus for fleet and fractional operators. They say that the 600-hr. maintenance intervals keep the aircraft flying and out of the shop. The aircraft is also easy to work on, shortening the maintenance hours required to complete scheduled tasks and slashing overall maintenance costs.

Embraer's customer support frequently also is mentioned as one of the operators' five favorite features. Plumb, for instance, said that Embraer's part distribution center, run by UPS Supply Chain Solutions in Louisville, Ky., provides “excellent” response. “It's quicker than counter to counter [air freight service].”

. . . And Least-Liked Features

Topping the Dislike List for owner-operators is the Phenom 300's touchy brakes. Operators say the multiple disc, carbon heat packs are very effective at stopping the aircraft, but the brake-by-wire (BBW) system's feel and modulation are challenging, especially when the brakes are warm. Embraer is exploring a modification that would change the range of motion of the brake pedals and also modify the spring rates, similar to the system developed for the Phenom 100. Brake Control Unit version 7 is the most recent release of the BBW box. It's intended to improve brake modulation, but operators give it mixed reviews. BCU-8 now is in development and it should improve brake modulation as well as enhance anti-skid performance.

In the interim, many pilots have adapted their brake pedal modulation technique to the quirks in the system. For smooth stopping, they say they have to lead braking action with gentle pedal pressure and be patient for the brakes to take hold when the heat packs are warm. However, the aircraft has power braking action, including on contaminated runways. If maximum deceleration is needed, they just bury the pedals all the way forward and let the anti-skid system work as designed to stop the aircraft in the minimum distance.

Fleet and fractional operators have different priorities. For them, wing flap and multifunction spoiler problems top the list. Flight Control Electronics unit malfunctions have been the top cause of AOG dispatch failures. To address the problem, Embraer is developing an improved FCE unit that should be more reliable. (Please see “Top 25 AOG Causes”)

Tire wear is another concern. Some operators are wearing out tires in less than 100 landings. Replacement tires appear to be more durable. Operators now are getting 180 to 200 cycles out of a pair of main landing gear tires. Some say that the lack of thrust reversers or attenuators contributes to excessive tire wear. However, there are no plans to retrofit such devices to the engines or to offer thrust reversers as an option because of the additional weight penalty and complexity of adding another hydraulically powered system.

Most operators also believe the aircraft's twin 36AH batteries are undersized, wearing out in as little as 15 months. They say they use ground power units to start the aircraft whenever feasible, particularly in cold weather. In addition, they say that the aircraft is very sensitive to slight fluctuations in GPU voltage. Small variances cause the aircraft to open the external power relay, thereby disconnecting the GPU from the aircraft. Hiccups in GPU power are not rare when ground power is used to supply the vapor cycle air-conditioner to cool the cabin prior to engine start.

Embraer is looking into fitting the aircraft with more-powerful batteries, an upgrade that some operators very much want. In the meantime, the manufacturer requires the batteries to be changed every 24 months.

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