The Phenom 100 is a next-gen jet that’s priced like a turboprop. This is a deep-dive look at the Embraer Phenom 100 for those looking for a single-pilot jet.
A new Phenom 100 costs an average of $4.6 million while a pre-owned one is priced between $2.1 and $4.8 million. Equipped with a pair of Pratt & Whitney 615F engines, which produce 1,695 lbs of thrust each. At FL410 it cruises at 406 KTAS, burning 109 gallons per hour.
As a corporate pilot with literally hundreds of hours under my belt, I’ve had the good fortune to work alongside all the aircraft in Embraer’s Phenom series, especially with the Phenom 100.
Embraer S.A., the Brazilian aerospace company that designed and built the highly successful Embraer RJ aircraft, decided in the spring of 2005 to enter the executive jet market. To differentiate its designs from others, it subscribed to contemporary aviation philosophies that embraced automation and digitalization.
As soon as the Board had decided on entering the new market, they announced the specs for the aircraft that became known as the Phenom 300. However, even though it was the Phenom 300 that was announced first, it was the smaller Phenom 100 that reached its design goals, overcame its technological challenges, and took to the skies a little more than a year ahead of the 300.
The 300 was longer by almost nine feet, had an 800-nm range advantage, and flew thirteen percent faster, while using much of the same designs and composites of the smaller 100. But because of the greater speed and payload, there were significantly more design hurdles they had to overcome to get the plane ready for certification.
The Phenom 100 is the commercial name given to Model EMB-500, a twin engine business jet with a low wing and T-tail configuration designed to fit in the VLJ class of private jets.
The Phenom 100 flew for the first time in July 2007. It was later certified under 14 CFR 23’s Commuter Category in December 2008 by the FAA as a single-pilot jet. It entered service that same month.
The Phenom 100 uses advanced material technology to reduce weight, increase strength, and improve efficiency. 20% of the aircraft is built using composites, giving it superior physical characteristics and better performance than its competitors in the same class and category.
With take-off and landing distances as low as 2900 feet and 3100 feet respectively, the Phenom 100 can access smaller airports, avoiding the delays and congestion of regional hubs.
The Phenom was built from the ground up by engineers who had learned volumes after their successful implementation of the ERJ. Embraer’s Board of Directors was intent on cornering the VLJ market. To this end, they wanted to build an aircraft that revolutionized performance and manufacturing.
The two things they had in mind during the conceptualization stage were simplicity and digitization.
The overall philosophy was to simplify everything. From manufacturing to maintenance, and from procedures to dispatch reliability, the Board wanted to build an aircraft that made flying, like driving a car. And they achieved it. The Phenom is one of the easiest aircraft to maintain and fly. Even the checklist from start-up to shutdown can fit one laminated card.
Engineers decided that they did not want anything that did not need to be there. Even the need for a separate beacon switch was removed. As soon as you turn the knob to start the engine, the beacon is the first thing that comes on.
The same philosophy goes for fuel pumps and generators. The aircraft has a smart system that detects what needs to come on and what doesn’t. This way, it reduces the amount of workload in the cockpit by almost 70% when compared to other aircraft in its class and category.
Those who fly for business realize soon after taking their Phenom on a business trip that they have more energy to finish their business and turn around the same day. Pilots who fly other aircraft typically land up spending the night. The Phenom is significantly easier to fly and induces considerably less fatigue
The Embraer Phenom 100 uses a monoplane structure with cantilever wings beneath the fuselage. This design choice accomplishes increased cabin volume and reduced weight.
Engineers wanted to have the Phenom 100 cruise at M 0.7, which meant that there was the possibility of localized incidences of mach flow on the wing. This required sweeping the wing to be able to reduce the increased drag. But that would have also reduced low-speed stability and increased landing distances.
To counter that, engineers instead chose to taper the wing, so while it looks like it is swept, it's just the leading edge that sweeps back in a taper while the quarter chord projects out squarely from the centerline. In effect, there is no sweep but the effects are the same, it prevents any part of the wing from experiencing supersonic flow.
This adds one more benefit to the equation that a lot of other similar class offerings fail to provide. By designing a wing that has minimal sonic flow at its max cruise speed, they limit wave drag substantially thereby allowing the aircraft to have higher speeds with less drag, less fuel burn, and consequently, longer range.
The thing to understand about engines is that they are limited by the strength of the aircraft, and not so much by the ability to generate thrust. Of course, there is an upper thermodynamic limit to what an engine can produce given its efficacy and the energy contained in the fuel it uses, as well as the strength of its components.
In most cases, however, aircraft do not generate their full power for safety reasons. This is the reason you will notice that two different aircraft, with the same engine, can sometimes have different max thrust ratings.
The Phenom 100 uses a pair of Pratt and Whitney Canada 615F engines that are rated for 1,695 pounds of take-off thrust, flat rated to ISA +8 degrees C. That means that no matter how much you push the throttles forward, all you’re going to get is 1695 depending on the atmospheric conditions outside.
This is accomplished by the FADEC system installed on the Phenom 100 that has been adjusted to yield constant power while keeping the engine within safety parameters. However, if there’s engine failure before or after V1, the controls will instantly boost the remaining engine up to 1,750 lb f.
Not many aircraft in this class have the Automatic Power Reserve, or what Embraer calls, Automatic Thrust Reserve (ATR) the Phenom 100 has. But it's not just in emergencies. There is a buffer built into normal take-offs as well. The thrust levers, once set for take-off, can be pushed forward past soft stops in the event of an emergency to extract the 1,750 lbf of thrust from both engines.
It would come in handy in the event of unexpected wind shear, or to help reduce the take-off distance by almost ten percent. There is an option, however, to deactivate the ATR. In the event of a short field runway, having it is great since an automatic boost in thrust will give you the added advantage of better single-engine performance.
But the point to note is that while there is extra power on tap, it is not recommended to be used all the time because it does take its toll on the engines.
While it is good for take-offs, it is not so good to use it on high-density altitude days. That just places a lot more stress on the engine. Keeping the engine within its normal parameters is your best option.
The Phenom 100 is highly sensitive to altitude. Because of its wing design, it can achieve significant drag reduction the higher it goes, just as all jets do. Which is why everyone wants to get to a higher altitude. But the Phenom 100 is more sensitive than most.
At a gross weight of 10,000 pounds, the Phenom 100 only burns 558 pounds of fuel per hour in total for the first hour at FL400. But if stuck at lower altitudes, it will burn 884 pounds per hour at 32,000 feet, knocking off almost 30 minutes of endurance for every hour it spends in thicker air.
The fuel burn is a function of altitude. The Phenom does not reach its best speed at its highest altitude. Its best speed is usually in the mid-thirties. This is another piece of evidence that shows that the Embraer engineers took a lot of their data off the CRJ. The Phenom really does fly a lot like an airliner rather than a small jet.
The Phenom 100 has a Max Ramp Weight of 10,747 pounds with an MTOW of 10,472 giving you 275 pounds of fuel to make your way for departure. You won’t always need that if you are flying out of a small airport.
The Phenom 100 has a zero fuel weight of 8,554 pounds giving you 1,918 pounds of fuel under max payload conditions. It takes 452 pounds in the climb to FL400 leaving 1,466 pounds. On average, configured for max speed cruise, the Phenom 100 will burn 558 lbs in the first hour or an average of 565 pounds per hour.
Leaving IFR reserves intact means you would need 400 pounds in the tank when you land (assuming a VFR day with no inclement weather forecast) will leave you with 1.88 hours of flight time. At M 0.7 you should be able to cover 700 nautical miles.
The 100’s Operating Empty Weight is 7.220 lbs giving you 1,334 lbs of payload. At an average weight of 180 pounds per person, you can easily fit seven with a little left over for luggage.
The Phenom 100 is a docile but agile aircraft. It behaves as you would like it to, but it can get away from you if you are not making the effort to keep ahead of it. Flying it for the first time, will be reminiscent of getting into a Beech Baron for the first time after a lifetime of flying a Piper Cub.
The Phenom 100 has a maximum crosswind limitation of 18 knots.
The Phenom 100, within the terminal area, flies as easily as a large twin-piston engine aircraft, like a Navajo or a Cessna 404. Maybe even a little easier since there are a lot less buttons to push and things to clean up.
The scenery going past the window on the take-off roll feels about the same, and it transitions rapidly from V1 to Vr and then to V2 and gear up. Things move fast, and if you are a single pilot fresh from flying a piston-engine, you will have to get used to it, but don’t get behind it.
Almost everything in the Phenom 100 is based on a percent of N1. Even take off power, but the good thing is that you don’t need to remember it. Just set the levers to the markings on the quadrant. The EEC in the FADEC will understand what you want, measure the ambient atmospheric condition, and figure out what take-off power it has to extract from the Pratt and Whitney engines.
Positioning on the runway and setting the brakes precedes the power levers positioning to the Take Off power line in the quadrant. You just have to verify it by keeping an eye on the N1 numbers as it spools up. It doesn’t take long. Once stable, the Phenom 100 is ready to go.
In larger jets, Vref is typically, by rule of thumb, 10 knots below approach speed. Because of the reduced weight and the slippery laminar wings of the Phenom 100, approach speeds are just 5 knots above Vref. If you come in any faster, assuming normal approach conditions, the plane does have the tendency to float for some time.
The Embraer Phenom 100 was designed around simplicity, automating anything that did not absolutely need the pilot’s attention. From turning on the Master Avionics switch - which is not present on the Phenom 100, to turning on the beacon before engine start, the engineers made sure that the aircraft did these menial tasks without having to bother the pilot.
All the automation and simplification are driven by a purpose-programmed Prodigy Suite that is built on the Garmin 1000 core. This is an all-glass cockpit that integrates engine, communication, flight, navigation, traffic, and terrain surveillance, all into a large PFD directly in front of the pilot.
It is built to give pilots the information they need only when they need it. In the background, a fully redundant system monitors all the flight parameters and issues a warning if the system deems that the pilot needs to be informed.
A large navigation map resides natively on the MFD that sits in between the two pilots while a smaller representation of it appears on the side of the PFD for situational awareness.
The MFD overlays display VORs, airports, airspaces, and airways, along with borders, major roads, features, and cities in a full-color topography that is shaded to represent elevation. All the data can be adjusted to as much or as little as the pilot is comfortable with.
When the Phenom was first introduced to the market, the price was set at $3.6 million. The overwhelming demand allowed the company to raise the initial price. The factory-new price for every new model Phenom 100 has appreciated, pulled by demand.
In 2022 a base model for the Phenom 100 is $4.6 million with the top end of pricing reaching $6 million.
This has had a positive impact on the used Phenom 100 market which has seen used aircraft prices have appreciated positively.
Fixed Operating Costs
The Phenom 100 was designed to cut down maintenance time and reduce operating costs. Keeping in mind that the aircraft can be safely operated with a single pilot and not having any cabin crew, the fixed cost for annual operation for a Phenom 100 purchased in the used market for $4 million using an 80% loan with 5.5% interest and a ten-year term results in a total fixed cost of under $257,000 for one year.
Direct Operating Cost
Using the most recent price at my airport of $7.60 per gallon and an average burn rate of 109 gph of the Phenom 100 the DOC for this aircraft can be calculated.
With a DOC of $551,360 per four hundred hours and $256,808 per year, the total operating cost for 400 hours a year is $808,168, which is $2,020 per hour.
There are a few points to consider in the calculus of the Phenom 100. When it is fully loaded, the typical endurance is just under two hours giving you an average range of about 700 nautical miles in 1.8 hours that would cost $3,636.
Looking further, $3,636 will be able to transport 1,334 pounds across 700 miles. The numbers do speak for themselves. $3,636 / 1,334 lb/ 600 nm = $0.0039 per pound per nm. This makes the Phenom 100 one of the least expensive ways to transport cargo and people across a short range.
However, these costs reflect the use of a flight crew. If you are flying this yourself, whether using it for business or pleasure, then the Fixed Costs are reduced by $100,000 per year. The hourly cost then becomes $1,770.
About THE AUTHOR
After spending years watching every video I could find about flying, I finally scratched the itch and got my pilots license. Now I fly every chance I get, and share the information I learn, here.Read More About Joe Haygood