G5 Executive had a problem. The Swiss charter firm flies high-end jets all over the world but they needed a plane for shorter trips. Too often they had to ferry one of the big jets back from the Far East or North America to do a short hop to Moscow or London. At the same time, their clients had come to expect the space and elegance of their Gulfstream V. Their solution? An Embraer Legacy.
“It offers the cabin of a large jet with the cost of a super mid-sized,” said Luiz Fuchs, a senior vice president at Embraer. The Legacy is a modified ERJ-135 airliner fitted with long range tanks and a luxury interior. In just two years it has captured eight percent of the market in its category. The company hopes to nearly double that this year.
As part of its campaign, Embraer recently announced substantial upgrades. Range has increased to 3,250nm and they have completely revamped the interior design. The new cabin capitalizes on the plane’s size. It seats up to thirteen passengers in three zones. Entering the plane from the airstairs behind the cockpit, you walk through a galley area into the first zone. There are four large seats in facing pairs. Then there is a four seat conference / dining area with a credenza. Finally, the third zone is a sleeping area that can be curtained off. It has a three seat divan which folds out to make a bed plus two more seats. Finally there is a further lavatory and the walk-in baggage compartment.
Embraer takes a no-nonsense view of the options. Most of them are included. Standard equipment includes two DVDs, two LCD cabin displays, a moving map system and Iridium satellite telephone. There are also eight cabin power outlets for laptops or other equipment.
The new interior retains the generous proportions of the original aircraft. For example, it has by far the largest baggage compartment and galley in its class. It adds refinement with better fit and finish, elm veneer cabinetry, high quality carpeting and leather chairs that convert to lie-flat beds. It is also a more flexible design. For example, owners can relax in the first section during take off and climb while an attendant lays the table for dinner in the second. The unique option, for its class, of a forward crew lavatory means that sleeping passengers aren’t disturbed.
Inside and out, the $21m Legacy looks and feels like a much more expensive aircraft. It has a much larger cabin than similarly-priced competitors such as the Falcon 50, Citation X or Hawker Horizon. In fact, the cabin is very similar in size to Gulfstream’s G400 which costs around $34m. It’s like buying a sedan and getting a stretch limo.
The trade-off is speed and range. It flies from LA to New York ten to twenty minutes slower than some of its competitors. While it has true transcontinental range, a westbound Atlantic crossing sometimes requires a fuel stop if the headwind is unusually strong. On the other hand, a particular strength of the aircraft is its superb dispatch reliability. After all, the basic airframe was designed for six trips a day as a commuter aircraft.
“Once you have something new, you have to try it first. Customers are a little bit suspicious at first because Embraer is not well-known,” said Urs Gisel, chief Legacy pilot for G5 Executive. “However, once people have been on the aircraft, their attitude changes. We have a nice case where a customer wanted to fly with another aircraft but now he only flies Legacy.”