Predator: noun 1 an animal that naturally preys on others.
2 an armed, remotely piloted air system, or drone
Praeton: doesn’t really mean anything
Praetor: noun each of two ancient Roman magistrates ranking below consul
My excitement on learning that Embraer was debuting two new jets at NBAA’s Orlando show in October was tempered only by a niggling doubt at the name it had chosen for them – Praetor. Even knowing the word’s meaning, I was convinced it was a rare misjudgement.
The Praetors – 500 and 600 – were duly unveiled on Sunday, before the show’s press conferences on Monday. The invited audience was reportedly as impressed by the range figures Embraer was promising as it was by the event’s effects. By Monday, the new Embraer jets were still worthy news and remained a popular topic of conversation throughout the show.
Except… people were talking about the Praeton. The Predator. And variations in between. Few seemed to have latched on to Praetor. I was clearly correct about the name and determined to tell Jay Beever, Vice President, Industrial Design, Embraer Executive Jets, exactly that.
Sitting with Beever in Embraer’s static display chalet, he began the interview with: “You’re wondering about the name.” It wasn’t the opening gambit I’d expected… “It tells a story,” he says, “but a story that we perhaps need to tell a little better”. Storytelling is essential to Beever’s extraordinary cabin design. His work leads the passenger on visual and tactile tales, colours and materials, textures and elegant design touches leading the senses to explore every facet of the cabin.
“We already had the Phenom,” he explains, “indicating something of outstanding talent, and we wanted a name in keeping with that. I believe the aircraft and its technology are there to serve the principal, the person at the centre of the mission, and I realised Praetor suited that role perfectly. In Roman times a praetor worked to support an important leader – Embraer’s Praetor will support a modern generation of leaders.”
Praetor. A well-judged name then…
The Praetor pair immediately impresses with class-leading range capabilities. Based on the Legacy 450 but with the fuel capacity of the larger Legacy 500, the midsize Praetor 500 boasts a four-passenger maximum range of 3,250nm, easily sufficient for a coast-to-coast run from Los Angeles to New York. The Praetor 600 adds additional fuel capacity to the Legacy 500, extending its four-passenger reach out to 3,900nm, a super-midsize best in class.
Power for the Praetor 500 comes from the same 6,548lb thrust Honeywell HTF7500E employed on the Legacy 450, while an uprated version of the same engine delivers 7,528lb thrust for the Praetor 600. Airframe modifications compared to the Legacy include the Praetor 500’s increased capacity wing fuel tanks, while the 600 adds new underfuselage fuel in what Embraer terms belly tanks. More obviously, the Praetor features larger winglets than its predecessor, increasing aerodynamic efficiency for no change in primary wing structure.
Jay Beever has created a new Bossa Nova cabin for the Praetors, defining a comfortable, welcoming space that combines with a 5,800ft cabin altitude at 45,000ft to ensure passengers arrive refreshed, even after the longer legs the aircraft is capable of flying. Various cabin layouts and options are available, but the club seats – typically four on the Praetor 500 and eight on the 600 – convert into fully flat berths.
Embraer has continued its expanding relationship with Viasat, offering its global Ka-band service via a fin tip leading-edge antenna installation. Gogo’s AVANCE L5 system is also available, for air-to-ground connectivity and a host of services over the US. Cabin management and inflight entertainment is via Honeywell’s Ovation Select suite, compatible with the majority of mobile devices and enabling cabin control through an iPad. Powered USB ports avoid flat batteries, while voice communications and audio and video on demand are also available through AVANCE L5.
But facts alone fail to tell the Praetor’s story. The Legacy already looked good, even parked alongside the best of its peers, or perhaps especially when parked alongside the best of its peers. The Praetor is more impressive still, the dramatically revised winglets, admittedly enhanced by the spectacular colours Embraer chose for its launch aircraft, emphasising the aircraft’s advanced design and enhanced aerodynamics. At a basic, first impression level, they also look incredibly cool.
And that same comment is true of the Bossa Nova cabin. It takes the Brazilian music and dance style of the same name as its inspiration, and Beever explains that the Portuguese ‘bossa nova’ translates into ‘new trend’, exactly what he has created with the Praetor cabin. For NBAA, the Praetor 600 was completed with a spectacular dark colour palette, the 500 in a rather less dramatic, almost neutral colourway, both telling the inevitable story that Beever began relating from the comfort of the Praetor 500.
“This lighter cabin would be great for a fractional aircraft, where multiple people are using it and a less personal feel is appropriate. This palette also suits someone who feels claustrophobic in planes, especially with the Ultraleather wrap on the valences, which makes the cabin feel continuous, while the ceiling arch and sidewall arch produce a ‘widow’s peak’ effect, making everything feel like it’s been pushed up and out. It’s the same on both airplanes, but it’s really emphasised with a colour palette like this.”
The effect is to make the Praetor’s stand-up cabin feel larger still and Beever reinforces the fact that this is a midsize jet. Predictably, he has a story to emphasise his large cabin/midsize jet point. Not a short man by any means, he says: “I turned two seats inwards for a photoshoot and laid on them across the cabin, that’s how big it is – 6ft tall and 6ft 10in wide.”
A believer in technology, but technology that waits discretely to be required, he next points out what he refers to as ‘the butler’ – it’s Embraer’s unique upper tech panel to the rest of the industry. He reaches for the dark panel set into the valence and it illuminates, ready to serve. “The butler gives me the ability to turn on the reading lights and gives me flight information. I can glance at it to see how long we have left to fly and if I’ve just clinched a deal, I can order a gin and tonic knowing I’ve sufficient time to enjoy it. But then when I don’t need it anymore, it goes away.”
Once upon a time, when it first began creating executive jets, Embraer’s cabin finishing was a little hit and miss. Since then, the company has gone to great lengths to bring high-end traditional craftsmanship and cutting-edge technological know-how in house. Today’s beautiful cabins reflect that commitment, but it’s typical of the manufacturer, and Beever, that he always sees room for improvement. “We’ve improved the sewing in all our seats.” Noting the detail of the Praetor 500 seat he’s sitting in, he says: “We call this the Milano, with horizontal stitching in the insert. The style is reminiscent of Italian sports cars from the 1960s and today’s Maseratis have returned to a similar style.”
The Praetor 600’s darkly upholstered seats featured a form of linked, rectangular stitching Beever calls Ipanema and he explains: “We also have London and Sao Paulo. London is a diamond stitch and Sao Paulo a zigzag pattern. It provides us with global, city-inspired themes.”
Setting themes and butlers aside for a moment, it’s fair to describe the Praetor 500 cabin, in the pale palette chosen for NBAA, as pretty much typical for a business jet, and yet the understanding gained from speaking with Beever reveals something extra. If all midsize cabins were likened to really good coffee, then the Praetor 500’s is just that bit creamier. “Exactly, smoother and easier to digest! It’s a great place to relax and get comfortable over a long flight. And if you remove ‘point in time’ technology on a long flight, what do you focus on? It’s the craftsmanship. We’ve incorporated automotive-like execution and simple assembly/disassembly.”
To prove the point, he reaches above his head and rips the emergency oxygen mask cover out of the valence. “It’s quick and easy to check the mask ready to go flying and it goes back in like that…” as the panel seemingly pulls itself back into perfect alignment with a soft click. It’s an astonishing piece of engineering that Beever almost dismisses: “The magnets holding it are concave, so they centre themselves as soon as they come into contact.”
The Praetor’s side ledges comprise a mix of materials pleasing both to the eye and to touch, proving how carefully Embraer makes its choices. “If it looks like plated metal it has to be cold to the touch, because if it’s warm, it’s plated plastic. If it’s glass it should be cold and if it’s plastic, it should be warm. The body picks up authenticity in materials haptically, it tells you what’s real. And you can feel the difference between leather and Ultraleather, so the seats are leather but the side panels, which are rarely touched, are finished in Ultraleather.”
Stepping quickly through Orlando’s searing October heat to the Praetor 600, we entered a seemingly different world of dark leather, Ipanema stitching and polished carbon fibre. This aircraft was equipped with a fully berthing, leather divan featuring, Beever noted, a 105° back angle for perfect comfort in the sitting position. A vertical back apparently simplifies the transition to flat berth, but it’s less comfortable and therefore unacceptable to his philosophy. “We use curved rails, so you can have the correct back angle and a flat berth. And should technology be exposed on your divan? Absolutely not!”
A large panel in the armrest slides back to reveal a screen and cupholder. But it slides without any obvious mechanical means. There are no runners or hinges evident and it’s the perfect cover for what Beever calls ‘point in time technology’, or the butler. “You just slide it over and you have the perfect place to rest your arm, without having it hang in the cupholder. The butler goes away when you don’t need him. The technology’s hidden, leaving just the craftsmanship to entertain you.”
There will be more to the Praetor story and there’s an evolving legend to tell of Jay Beever’s inspiring cabin design but, for now, he offers his apologies. “I have to go talk to a customer…”