Reproduced from SP’s Aviation 3/2005. This issue had published a first-hand exhaustive coverage of IAF’s Communication Squadron’s Embraer jets which had just arrived and inducted by the Squadron, in the same year
The SP Guide Publications Team (SPG) had a close interaction with the Squadron’s most experienced Legacy pilot, Wing Commander Alok Sharma (AS) on the aircraft’s technical specifications, operational capabilities and its handling characteristics. Major excerpts of the interview are given below:
SPG: To begin with, could you throw some light on the genesis of the Embraer EMB 135BJ, Legacy aircraft?
AS: The Embraer EMB 135BJ is built on the well proven platform of the Embraer’s regional jet, ERJ 145. The business jet version of ERJ 145 has been given a generic name of ‘Legacy’. The Legacy is based on a field-proven aircraft that has logged over 3 million flying hours. More than 850 ERJ 145 jets are currently operational worldwide.
SPG: What is the ‘mission’ capability of the Legacy?
AS: As a starter, with a balanced field length of less than 6,000 ft, the Legacy can operate from smaller airports around the country and the world. Secondly, it can operate from fields located up to an altitude of 13,500 ft thereby covering all the existing high altitude airfields in India and abroad. After takeoff, the Legacy can climb directly to a cruising altitude of 39,000 ft. The direct transition from take-off to cruise makes it unnecessary to carry out step climbs affording a consistently comfortable ride for the passengers. At the cruising altitude, the Legacy can fly up to 3,100 nm with 10 passengers. Next, with the Legacy’s standard fuel reserves, it provides sufficient flexibility to change plans if required and land at an alternate airport up to 200 nm from the original destination.
SPG: What are the salient features of the cabin?
AS: The Legacy has a cabin space of 1,410 cu ft and baggage space of 240 cu ft, which makes it the most cost-effective aircraft in its category in the world. In addition, the cabin height has been modified to over 6 ft for the IAF. The IAF has opted for two options as far as the seating is concerned. One is a combination of eight business class and six VIP seats while the second is for 19 seats, all in business class configuration. The VVIP section has four seats which can swivel horizontally and recline up to 180 degrees for maximum comfort of the passengers. The aircraft has provision for SATCOM and use of Laptop computers. For entertainment, the aircraft has three DVD players which can be individually selected and, the ‘Air show’ which provides the flight details and position of the aircraft in any part of the world. The passengers therefore, can either work in a relaxed atmosphere or rest in a spacious and well-furnished cabin. The aircraft galley boasts of a refrigerator, a micro-wave and a normal oven, tea/coffee percolators and a portable food container.
SPG: What are the main features of the engines?
AS: The Legacy is powered by two Rolls-Royce AE3007A1E fuel-efficient, quiet, high bypass turbo-fan engines. They are controlled by dual redundant FADECs (Full Authority Digital Electronic Control), designed for optimal operation and reduced fuel consumption while, at the same time, ensuring ‘hot and high’ performance. The APU (Auxiliary Power Unit) generates enough power to operate all aircraft systems and keep the passenger cabin at a comfortable temperature when on the ground.
SPG: What are the salient features of the cockpit?
AS: The Legacy has a Honeywell Primus 1000 fully digital all glass cockpit, designed with the Embraer philosophy of a dark cockpit. The well laid out ergonomics provide the most up-todate facilities in the crew resource management. The instrument panel houses five 8-inch by 7-inch displays driven by dual integrated computers and, in all, includes two PFDs (Primary Flight Displays), two MFDs (Multi-functional Displays), one EICAS (Engine Indication & Crew Alerting System) with Primus II radar, TCAS (Traffic-alert & Collision Avoidance System) and EGPWS (Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System). The Legacy is equipped with a CAT II AP/FD (Auto-pilot/Flight Director) for precision approach and landing in less than optimal weather conditions. The IAF Legacy has a single FMS (Flight Management System) with built-in GPS (Global Positioning System). The GPS is IFR certified and meets the requirements for the single long range navigation system.
SPG: What is the dispatch reliability and the maintenance schedule of the aircraft?
AS: The Legacy has a dispatch reliability of 99.5 per cent. The planned inspection cycles are after every 400 flying hours or six months which are minor in nature and can be completed within 24 hours. The first major inspection arises only after 4,000 hours or four years. The aircraft is specially designed with an ‘on-condition’ maintenance philosophy which substantially increases the aircraft availability.
SPG: Have any measures been taken to protect the aircraft from the ever increasing threat of terrorist attacks?
AS: Yes. The aircraft is equipped with electronic counter measures in case of a missile attack.
SPG: Lastly, could you throw some light on the handling characteristics of the aircraft?
AS: The Legacy handles exceptionally well both on the ground and in the air. The pilot’s feel of the aircraft controls is superlative and the aircraft can be trimmed easily in various stages of flying and in various configurations. The engine handling is minimal and smooth. The single engine performance at normal operating temperatures is fine and any engine related emergency can be handled with ease. The auto-pilot is fully capable to maintain the desired flying parameters including a CAT II approach for landing even with one engine inoperative. To sum it up, it is a pleasure to be ‘the man behind the machine’.