An imaginary conversation with Hemingway about the Phenom 300E
By David Zara
I recently had the chance and privilege of flying the new and improved Phenom 300E. I wanted to share in the joy and dreamt I had an imaginary talk with Hemingway.
We sat down at his favorite dingy down at the heels bar in an unspecified Caribbean island. I always felt a kinship with Hemingway. He liked to fish, I liked fish sautéed with a drizzle of lemon, he liked motor boats, I like sailboats. He liked carousing alone, I love carousing with friends. We both sported salt and pepper hair and tanned skin. He hated fascists, I hate fascists. I believed we both belonged to the brotherhood of the sun. The bartender clearly knew our man from Havana and greeted him with a grunt. A bottle of good Cuban rum was proffered with a single glass and no words exchanged. Hemingway grunted in response. A man of letters maybe but a man of few words. He asked me what I wanted. I asked for some sparkling water. I should have known better because Hemingway punched me.
The conversation flowed as if nothing unusual had happened. The waiter barely glanced at us and didn’t wince nor smile. Hemingway segued into wanting to know if you could use the Phenom 300E to fish. I explained not quite but that you could instead fly somewhere to go fishing and take all your fishing gear as the plane has a huge luggage hold. Clearly, the only kind of plane the great bearded one could countenance was a seaplane. He asked me if he could land the 300E on the water near his favorite shoal. I decided I’d try my hand at humor and replied that technically yes but only once. I should have known better because Hemingway punched me.
The most delivered jet of the decade
I made a mental note to order rum next time and to refrain from humor in the future. I explained Embraer announced in 2005 it would build a light jet. Three years later, the Phenom 300 flew and they delivered the first production aircraft in December 2009. By 2012 it had become the most delivered light jet in the market. The first NetJets 300 was delivered in 2013. By 2019 it was the most delivered jet for the preceding 8 years and the most delivered jet of the decade with more than 540 units finding happy owners.
I asked Hemingway, how do you achieve such success? He looked at me through the hazy veil of booze and grunted something. I took it to be a request for more information. I explained you start by listening to your customers for what they want. The 300E cruises faster. Actually, it’s the only single-pilot jet that can cruise at MO .80. I explained the new engines produce an extra 118 lbs of additional thrust for a total of 3,478 pounds of thrust per engine. I explained they improved the range to over 2000nm with 5 occupants at long range cruise. He raised an eyebrow and grunted his fishing boat did 9 knots at cruise and could go for 250 nautical miles. I wisely chose not to say anything. Hemingway punched me anyway.
Realizing a comparison with his beloved boat wasn’t wise, I added it to my previous mental notes. I explained Embraer increased the 300E’s range so he could could fly further. From South Florida he could go as far as the Galápagos Islands or even Guyana. That perked him up a bit. I told him from Los Angeles he could fly to Palm Beach and all the way to Guatemala. I added he could take 4 friends and their fishing gear. He answered he didn’t have 4 friends and didn’t like Los Angeles. I wisely chose not to say anything.
“Go tell Saint-Exupery”
Hemingway was a tough sell. He grunted a lot, almost fell of his stool twice and the bottle wasn’t even finished. I explained the new 300E uses only 3209 first for takeoff. It has a maximum payload of 2636 lbs and a payload of 1587 lbs with full fuel. I told him the plane is so much more comfortable than anything he could dream of. The pilots have 40% more seat track room to unwind their legs. He said flying is not his thing and that maybe I should go drinking with de St-Exupery instead. I steered the conversation towards comfort and explained the new 300E is much quieter. I told him they redesigned the thermal acoustic insulation package, they eliminated the metallic flapper noise during the descent and approach phases and added a muffler into the vapor cycle machine to make the air conditioning quieter. The new Bossa Nova interior is less plush and more Teutonic-looking but considerably more comfortable. The ceiling is studiously free of any protrusions and designed with ease of operations and style. There are three layouts possible and that should cover anyone’s taste in interior floor-plans. Hemingway grunted something but I could feel he was interested while feigning not being interested. I felt I was making progress because Hemingway hadn’t punched me.
The avionics have also been improved. The Garmin system is harder to describe than to use. A four-year old can use it. Unfortunately, there were no four-year olds around when I needed one but I was able to figure it out anyway confirming my wife’s claim that I am actually four years old. This system has clearly been designed by engineers smart enough to think like regular people unlike most systems which appear to be designed by engineers who had to be communicating with each other in Morse code and smoke signals. Their manuals appear to be translated from English to Japanese back to English with a detour in Spanish spoken as a second language by a Swede with poor eyesight. Add a few graphs and some numbers Einstein couldn’t figure out and you have a typical aviation manual.
There is now a good Emergency Descent Mode though I still can’t figure out why it doesn’t draw more information from the FMS system and adjust its descent altitude to a safe altitude in its geographic quadrant instead of an arbitrary 15,000 feet. Granted, you’d have to be having a very bad day to have an emergency depressurization in an area with mountains above 15,000 feet except it’s clear you are obviously already having a very bad day if you just had an emergency depressurization…. There is predictive wind-shear alert, vertical navigation for non-precision approaches and a lot of other useful goodies built into the system. I like how user-friendly the whole package is. Hemingway didn’t say a thing and asked for, grunted really, a second bottle. Things were looking up I thought and I didn’t get punched. Not yet at least.
“Punching way above its weight”
Hemingway liked short descriptive sentences and his book titles confirmed it. Death In The Afternoon, The Old Man and The Sea. No one was better at titles than Hemingway. Short, to the point and brilliant. I explained flying the 300E is simply fun. Embraer designated Sebastian Arrazola and Steven Glasscock to baby-sit me through the flight and Sebastian said it best when he declared “this plane punches way above its weight”. That’s exactly what I wanted to say but unfortunately I hadn’t thought of it. I thought about taking some literary liberties and maybe even punch Sebastian but upon further reflection decided it wouldn’t be such a good idea. Even though I am growing a salt and pepper beard and working on a progressively more round shape, my wife will confirm I’m not Hemingway. That and the fact Sebastian is a good guy.
Runway Overrun Awareness & Alerting System.
We shot some approaches and Sebastian demonstrated a very useful feature named ROAAS. It stands for Runway Overrun Awareness and Alerting System and it reduces the risk of overruns during landings. Rarely talked about, runway excursions are the third cause of aviation accidents and Embraer is the first general aviation manufacturer to offer the system in “private” aircraft. The system adjusts its calculations to cover wet runways for landing as well. While it can’t land the aircraft itself, ROAAS calculates landing parameters from data such as weight and balance, ADC, GPS and some flight crew inputs such as NOTAMS and runway conditions etc. The system will alert you to a possible overrun between 500 to 100 feet into the approach and direct you to go-around as low as 30 feet above the threshold. It can even warn you to brake more forcefully if it perceives you might be heading towards a runway overrun once you touch down. We had thoroughly briefed different scenarios before taking flight and I knew what to expect but the experience still left me in awe of the system.
Binge-watching on board
There is a very fast AVANCE L5 system for internet access and it did not disappoint. I found myself having to explain to a visibly inebriated Hemingway what it all means. He only came to life and was hooked once he realized he could watch fishing shows on board.
He asked some relevant questions and one which I delighted in answering was why the 300E and not something else? In a nutshell, a plane is more than the sum of it parts and I can’t quite figure out if the 300E is a small plane that flies like a big plane or a big plane that flies like a small plane. Maybe it’s both because it embodies the greatness of both types. The 300E lives in a crowded field and I haven’t flown the Pilatus PC-24 yet but I can certainly say I think the search for the great little plane is over for me.
And Hemingway didn’t punch me.