“In a nutshell,” says Edwards, “it took a lot of hard work and dedication by all the teams involved. Once we identified the delay, it was a case of getting all the parties around the table and saying 'OK. Let's get involved and find out what we need to do to minimize this delay . . .' It was more a team effort than any individual party. It wasn't so much of the problem being a problem, the problem was the delay and how do we recover.”
Edwards' “team effort” reference soft sells the role played by Embraer's and BAE Systems' engineers in rectifying the FBW software problems. Without their involvement at the “25th hour,” the aircraft still might be a hangar queen.
“What's past is done and we have a great airplane,” Edwards concludes.
Now the onus is on Embraer in Brazil to forge ahead in the next several months with a 2,000-hr. flight test campaign that's required for earning type certification by the end of 2013 or beginning of 2014.
Learning from the Phenom 100/300 development program, Embraer built a complete Legacy 450/500 engineering office at its Gavião Peixoto flight test facility that will accommodate 200 engineers from Embraer and its program partners who will work side by side with test pilots during the flight test campaign to expedite development work. The team will include systems, powerplant, avionics, interior and manufacturing engineers, plus supply chain specialists.
“Everything will be there. I think this is a very good approach. So, the engineers will be very close to the flight test campaign, very close,” says Marco Tulio Pelligrini, Embraer Executive Jets COO.
Two prototype and two fully production conforming aircraft will be used for the flight test campaign. The first two aircraft will be fitted with full flight test instrumentation and used primarily for envelope expansion and performance evaluation. The second prototype is slated to fly “as soon as it can” after the first prototype takes flight, perhaps “a matter of weeks,” says Ricardo Maltez, Legacy 450/500 program manager.
The third aircraft, fitted with all production systems including the interior, is slated to fly by year-end. It has been used for high-intensity radiated fields (HIRF) and lightning tests. The fourth aircraft — “the actual finished article,” says Edwards — will undergo hundreds of hours of function and reliability proving, including multiple takeoffs and landings, to assure a smooth entry into service in 2014. Edwards said the goal is to wrap up all the lessons learned from the first three flight test aircraft into the fourth, so that engineers can wring out as many problems before production aircraft are delivered to customers. The fourth aircraft is slated to start flying in the second half of 2103.
“We learned a lot from the Phenom, the first airplane we designed for the market. Maturity plays a very important role in the game, so we learned from the entry into service of the Phenoms. We had some 'spots' as you know,” says Tulio Pelligrini.