I did not really have to go to Brazil for the delivery of the Embraer Phenom 100 — JetQuik demonstrated that they could have done it very professionally on their own — but it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. No doubt about it, this was an educational experience. Although a somewhat experienced pilot with 500+ hours of flying, that was a drop in the bucket compared to what I learned over the course of nearly ten days with Bill and Mark and the Embraer team. Reading a great deal about the Phenom was informative but nothing compared to spending a week in the hangar and 15+ hours in flight. It is an incredibly well engineered airplane and I will have more comments on the technology aspects of it in future posts.
After arriving in Connecticut from Ft. Lauderdale, Bill and Mark took the Phenom to Stevens Aviation in Dayton, Ohio where it is undergoing some enhancements. Embraer had thought of just about everything but not quite everything, especially in the areas of collision avoidance systems, air-to-ground communications, and audio/video. The interior walls of the plane have to be removed and a half-dozen wiring harnesses have to be installed. The FAA has to inspect and approve every minute detail. The plane will return to Connecticut before the middle of November. Just so happens I will be in Ohio at that time for a board meeting and will return with the Phenom.
After yet another FAA inspection, the Phenom will be put into “service” with Diamond Air Charters, Inc., a charter aviation company in Danbury. The plane will be made available to anyone through flyDiamond.com. Federal Aviation Regulation Part 135 provides stringent standards — above and beyond what private ownership requires — to insure excellent safety, properly trained and experienced pilots, and regular inspections of all operational aspects of the aircraft and the business. Will the demand be there? Remains to be seen but I believe it will. The VLJ — very light jet or “microjet” — fills a niche that is getting harder and harder to fill by normal commercial aviation. The market segment I am referring to is traveling between small and medium sized towns and cities.
If you need to fly between San Francisco and New York City, you can not beat commercial airlines — as of this writing $242 round trip with one stop. On the other hand if you want to go from Danbury, Connecticut to Roanoke, Virginia is costs $904 and takes seven and a half hours plus the time to drive to Laguardia and be there in time to park and get through security. In other words it takes a whole day to get there. The Phenom can go direct from Danbury to Roanoke in 80 minutes. Admittedly it is much more expensive, so it comes down to how much is your time worth. For many busy business executives their time is worth a lot. Being able to be in Roanoke in time for coffee, make a presentation, close a deal, and be home for dinner is very good from both a business and personal point of view. Roanoke is a random example — there are more than 5,000 general aviation airports, most of which are not accessible to commercial aviation but are accessible to very light jets. The U.S. Congress put a wet towel on aviation temporarily but there is another side to the story. See No Plane No Gain.
It was a pleasure to share the Brazilian Adventure in JetBrief and patrickWeb. Below you can find links to each of the stories and a printable document that includes all the stories.