Pilot Review: Phenom 300

Note: in my last pilot review I wrote about my favorite airplane, the Pilatus PC-12. Read that one here.

A fortunate aspect of fluid dynamics and airplanes in general is that what works best, looks the sexiest (with notable exceptions such as the Piaggio Avanti).

And if any airplane takes this correlation to the furthest extent, it's the Phenom 300. A Phenom 300 practically screams, "I work out at Equinox, eat low-carb, and shop at Lululemon" (Lululemon because Embraer aircraft are known for their sexy paint schemes).

Passengers love it, and it's claimed over half the light jet market since 2012. But it's a pilot's airplane too, and here's why.

It's Light

Every airplane design ever, is a tradeoff. Add a cool feature, and you inevitably increase weight, which shortens range and hurts your runway numbers and shallows out the climb. Leave too many features out, and people won't pay $9 million for your jet.

Embraer got radical and left out a long list of heavy-and-not-100%-necessary items. There's no APU (to run the A/C on the ground in the summer), no thrust reversers (to shorten the landing roll) and no cabin access to the baggage compartment.

Then, Embraer designed the 300 with 18% composite materials. The result is an airplane that is super light, which is magic when paired with a set of powerful engines.

It's Powerful

The Phenom 300 uses two Pratt & Whitney PW535E engines, each rated at 3,360 pounds of static thrust. Expect to see climb rates at or above 3,000 feet per minute. If you have a penchant for the dramatic, you can increase that to 7,000 feat per minute for a few moments.

It's Easy to Fly

The Phenom 300 Cockpit is a joy. Two Garmin touch controllers can handle 90% of all workload in cruise, and everything else employs the "quiet and dark" concept: unless something is out of order for a given phase of flight, buttons and switches won't be illuminated.

Engine startup is foolproof, cruise is a breeze, and while landings are tough to get perfect, they're easy to get "good."

The Bad & Ugly

No thrust reversers means that the Phenom 300 has to put a lot of trust in the brake system. On the 300 it's a brake-by-wire system which is sensitive and jumpy.

No APU means that you will be in a full-sweat as you wait for the cabin to cool down (and you will be frozen in the Winter).

Conclusion

The Phenom 300 is the most beautiful production airplane, and it acts like it. It is the iPhone of airplanes: it's a sex symbol, it's so simple that it doesn't have a headphone jack (thrust reversers), and it's addictive too. Fly one if you can.