this is one BIG AIRCRAFT: 22 SEATS. 40,000LB OF THRUST, 4,500 MILE RANGE, five cabin zones… and a shower
MUCH of what we do in aviation has maritime origins and the ‘mine is bigger than yours’ motive found on the GA ramp definitely has its roots in the marina. If size really matters then the ultra-large Embraer Lineage stands tall. Only slightly smaller than an ACJ or BBJ, this flying machine has serious presence.
But there’s more to it than that old cliche. In the 21st century some of the ageing wide body VIP conversions are absurd, untenable as business tools. Compared to those old dreadnoughts the Lineage looks lean and mean, more like a modern destroyer than a battleship. It has superb, useable space and very good range but with modern, efficent engines and the associated smaller fuel bills.
It’s a highly usable aircraft, particularly since it’s soon to be approved for steep approaches which means that if you are heading for London City, it moves ahead of the BBJ1 and A319CJ (but not the A318) and if you want to fly to Calgary or Teterboro, the Lineage is the only way to go.
Embraer’s Lineage 1000 demonstrator aircraft made history last year by completing the longest distance ever flown by an Embraer aircraft. In its first non-stop flight from Mumbai, India, to London’s Luton Airport (LTN), the Lineage 1000 covered a ground distance of 4,015 nautical miles (7,435 km) in 9 hours and 15 minutes. This distance is equivalent to 4,400 nautical miles (8,149 km) with no headwind.
I drove down to the UK’s Farnborough Airport for my rendezvous with the Lineage and its operator, Hangar 8. The company manages the aircraft for a private owner and it is available for ad hoc charter at prices averaging US$10,000 an hour. In business terms that’s not bad if you divide it by 22 – the number of seats. Less than US$500 per hour per seat is definitely do-able.
As a pure business tool where you’d perhaps want to have conference areas and rest areas, I’d think the optimal number of working passengers would be about 8-10 and that’s a typical number for one of these aircraft. Embraer offers numerous modular cabin options at the design stage where you can optimise the interior, split into five sections, for your own requirements. They call this the ‘Home Away from Home’ concept.
“Our customers select top-luxury hotels when travelling around the world,” says Embraer. “These places offer cosy and stylish environments, with well equipped rooms. Usually, there are amenities such as a workplace with a proper desk to browse the internet or do some work, superb audio and video features to enjoy movies and music with the family, a dedicated in-room dining place to privately enjoy a nice meal, a mini-bar area with some seats for a relaxed chat while drinking some refreshments and finally, the most important: a comfortable bed and a good shower.”
So that’s what the customers want and are used to, so Embraer worked out how to provide that in an aircraft. And with an aircraft as big as the Lineage, based as it is on their E-190 airliner, the Brazilian company had the room to work with.
“The Lineage has a cabin that is meant to make our customers feel as though they are in a piece of their homes, no matter if in Paris, Dubai, New York, Beijing, or at 41,000 ft – anywhere in the world. The 752 sq ft floor area (70 sq metres) of the Lineage 1000, divided in five cabin zones, is comparable to the floor area of upper-class rooms in the most prestigious hotels around the world.”
Embraer says its concept has four main drivers:
• Layout flexibility: reflect customers’ lifestyle and preferences
• Differentiated interior modules: go beyond the usual seat-divan-credenza-table combinations available in smaller jets
• Leisure and productivity: provide entertainment and support work when needed
• Keep executive aviation sense: create a home without compromising airport accessibility, aircraft reliability and retaining fair operating costs.
The five-module cabin starts with what Embraer calls the “Welcome’ area. You don’t enter your home or hotel room through the kitchen so why put the galley by the entrance, says Embraer. Instead, the Welcome area has a divan which can be used by the crew for rest.
Zone 1 is the Dining and Meeting Room – it can be used for both and has two rigid pocket doors, segregating it from the galley and the other cabin zones. Zone 2 is the Bar (though it can also be located in Zone 1) and this is a module meant to provide a space for casual and enjoyable get-together occasions. It has three seats and an ice bucket and can be fitted with a 23in LCD monitor.
The Bar leads into Zone 3, the Lounge, with a 14ft berthable divan and 42in LCD monitor. A dedicated workstation is right next door in Zone 4, with in-flight phone, fax/printer and storage area. Finally, Zone 5 is the master Suite with a Queen-size bed, stand-up shower option in the VIP toilet, and access to the in-flight baggage area. It can also be fitted with a 23in LCD monitor and a phone.
An In-flight Entertainment (IFE) rack can be positioned between Zones 1 and 2, where a master 9in touchscreen control (also available in the galley) and three DVD racks are positioned. Throughout the cabin, it is possible to install up to five LCD monitors and there are also four A/V input panels and three remote controls for all cabin functions. A High Speed Data Internet connection up to 864 kbps is available, used as Wi-fi. Five in-flight phones are available in a four-channel system.
I was pretty impressed with this aeroplane’s interior and I’d give the workmanship a 9.5 out of 10, ie comparable with what I’ve seen of the competition. Perhaps some of the fasteners in the cabinets were a bit weedy (one had already stopped working) and I wasn’t impressed that the air stairs remain naked in the cabin once they’ve been raised and slid across forwards of the door aperture. If it was my aircraft I’d want some form of curtain across to mask them.
Also, the stairs don’t have a control to extend or retract from the ground. That means you either have to leave them extended with the door open (because you can’t close the door when they’re extended) or you have to retract them, get some air stairs from outside, close and lock the door and then take the steps away. The Lineage’s fuselage is just that little bit too small to have the steps retracting into the fuselage under the door like the ACJ and BBJ, and obviously too long and large to have the steps retained in the door itself like the little guys.
Elsewhere the Lineage is superb inside. The cabin is a little narrower than… let’s call them the A and B… and feels much longer even though it isn’t. Because of the perceived length the various sections as described above have a great deal of separation from each other and it’s not just because there are hard doors and partitions available to cordon off some of the areas.
I really, really liked the layout of this cabin and it felt far more integral to the whole aircraft, less modified and farmed out than much of the competition.
The final point on the aircraft’s size is to say it falls between the BBJ/A318 and the Gulfstream G500/Global Express. On price, the Lineage is comparable with the G550, has twice the cabin volume but not as much range.
For the pilots the Lineage is very much a stock E-jet. They’ve been around for more than a decade now and Embraer have rightly moved into a world number three position with this very capable aeroplane series. I’ve flown the ACJ and the BBJ and the Lineage is right up there with them – better than the BBJ in terms of ergonomics and modernity, and on a par with the fly-by-wire ACJ. I note that the next series of Embraer exec jets have side sticks and I was a mite surprised that this didn’t have them, but it’s a great place to work nevertheless.
The GE CF34-10E7 FADEC engines are easy to start and easy to use; they are rated at 18,800lb of thrust. The flat screen Honeywell Primus Epic avionics suite comes with its own hand controls (a mouse and cursor) as per the current trend. Our aircraft picked up a couple of electrical glitches/nuisance warnings during the start routine but they were easily cleared afterwards by the crew.
The aircraft is taxied using a proper tiller, unlike the little Embraer Phenom 100. The wingspan is huge if you’re used to anything smaller than a Gulfstream and we took a lot of care manoeuvring out of Farnborough’s crowded ramp, and even more taxiing into Oxford’s ramp some thirty minutes later.
Embraer’s E-Jets are fitted with Honeywell’s fly-by-wire system that is said to reduce pilot workload, improve aircraft performance, simplify systems and reduce weight. It replaces the traditional manual operation with its heavy mechanical and hydro-mechanical flight controls and associated cables, pulleys and cranks, which all adds up to a considerable weight-saving.
Instead, the ‘ram’s horns’ yoke is an electronic interface with commands converted to digital electronic signals which are processed by the on-board computer. This, in turn issues commands to the various actuators at the flight control surfaces to give the perfect combination of pitch, roll and yaw for whatever manoeuvre is required – and it can do this better and more smoothly than most pilots. It’s not quite full fly-by-wire though. While the elevator, rudder and multi-function spoilers are digitally controlled, the ailerons are conventional, controlled by cables.
The computer is also equipped with automatic structural load protection so it’s theoretically not possible to exceed tolerances. It also compensates automatically for engine thrust asymmetry and configuration changes.
PHASES OF FLIGHT
For AOC reasons I took the jump seat for the takeoff and landing so I can’t tell you personally how it handles these phases of flight but I will say it looked pretty straightforward. I talked to the crew about what they thought, and also some of the regulars on the E-jets at London City. The consensus is that the aircraft is great to operate, easy to fly, and easier to land at City than the competition, ie the A318 and the BAe 146/Avro RJ.
In the air the Lineage is an absolute dream to fly. The controls are light and well-harmonised and it was easy to operate the aircraft in front of the Caravan cameraship doing things it was never designed for, such as flying cross controlled for the ‘end on’ shots. Visibility out of the cockpit is particularly good.
After 30 minutes of handling I was very at home in the Lineage. It’s a nicer aircraft to fly than the Airbus, comparable with the older BBJ but with better, modern systems. Low speed handling felt safe and predictable just like the competition, and stiff and safe at high speed. Cockpit noise at high speed was negligible – Embraer has obviously put a lot of time in the windtunnel to get this down to a minimum.
All in all the Lineage is great – flying in one these for 10 hours and 4,500 miles is a practical possibility.
A few days later I spent some time watching the the E-jets land at City. On a steep approach the aircraft is nosewheel high and the transition is therefore easier than the Avro which, like the Fokker 50, has to make a more pronounced flare and readjustment before touchdown. The Airbus is nose high but it’s a tricky aircraft to land in a crosswind after a conventional approach, let alone at City (where there’s almost always a crosswind).
As an aside, I’m sure by now that we’ve all seen the ‘crazy flying’ routine of the Portugese A320 on the internet, or the one wheel and a wing tip crosswind landing of a German A320. Airbus have introduced some mods from the stock A318 for steep approaches, including a tweak of the flight control computers, but I’m still been amazed how well the A318s have been doing, apart from a heavy landing or two during training, which was to be expected.
As you might expect from an aircraft that’s flown more than five million hours as an airliner, under much higher utilisation and harsher environments than most business jets, the Lineage has its costs well under control.
Embraer claims the Lineage Direct Operating Costs are 10% lower than an Airbus A318, 16% lower than the Airbus ACJ, and 17% lower than the BBJ1 (using Conklin & de Decker figures). It comes with a maintenance plan and service intervals of six months or 500 hours.
Just five have been delivered so far, after the aircraft gained Type Certification last year, but as the business aviation market picks up, we can expect to see more.
|BASE PRICE $50m|
|MAX CRUISE Mach 0.82|
|MAX RANGE 4,500nm|
|TAKE-OFF DIST 1869m (6135ft)|
|LANDING DIST 812m (2664ft)|
|CABIN LENGTH 25.70m|
|CABIN HEIGHT 2.00/m|
|CABIN WIDTH 2.67m|
|PAX SEATS 22|
|ENGINES 2 x GE CF34-10E7-B|
|2 x 20,000lb|
|AVIONICS Honeywell Primus Epic|
|TEST AIRCRAFT SUPPLIED BY|
|Oxford Airport UK|