It also has external front and internal rear windshields, so the aircraft is controllable if the canopy is lost in flight.
Our zero-fuel weight was 7,224 lb. with two pilots and empty guns. With 1,091 lb. of fuel, the ramp weight was 8,315 lb. prior to engine start.
Using São José dos Campos, Brazil’s 2,120-ft. field elevation, a barometer setting of 1014 hPa and 34°C OAT, and compensating for the weight and drag count of the internal wing guns, the computed takeoff roll was 1,778 ft., and the takeoff distance over a 50-ft. obstacle was 3,504 ft., based on a takeoff weight of 8,271 lb. and flaps extended. Computed rotation speed was 89 KIAS and best angle of climb speed was 116 KIAS.
The aircraft also has an air intake inertial separator that can be deployed to minimize FOD risk on unimproved surfaces. We didn’t need to use it on the pavement at São José dos Campos. We switched on the automatic rudder trim unit that compensates for P-factor, checked the manually actuated primary flight controls, verified that the laser IRS/GPS navigation system was ready, pulled the safety pins out of the ejection seats and started to taxi to Runway 15.
Once cleared for takeoff, we pushed up the power control lever to the forward stop and the engine stabilized at 88% torque, equivalent to 1,408 shp. Acceleration was brisk and very little rudder was needed to maintain heading.
Retracting the gear and flaps, we noted very little pitch moment with configuration changes. We accelerated to 145 KIAS and climbed to 15,000 ft. en route to the northeast operating area, dodging several cumulonimbus buildups. Once level, the aircraft cruised at 285 to 300 KTAS at full power in turbulent air. This added credibility to Embraer’s claim of a 320 KTAS top cruise speed at lower altitudes.
We then descended to 10,000 ft. for a series of aerobatic maneuvers, including loops, barrel rolls and wingovers. The aircraft exhibited excellent control harmony, and very little rudder was needed to maintain balance flight because of the automatic rudder trim unit.
We also fully stalled the aircraft in clean and dirty configurations. The stalls were preceded by plenty of aerodynamic buffet. Pitch force increased quite linearly as angle of attack increased. In both stalls, the nose pitched down very gently.
Spin behavior was equally benign. In both fully developed left and right spins, we initiated recovery by centering the stick and countering with opposite rudder. The nose dropped almost straight down within one turn and we recovered by pulling out of the dive. We also used a hands-off recovery technique during a third spin. Once we relaxed pro–spin control inputs, the nose dropped within one and a half turns and we pulled out of the dive.