The Embraer Legacy 500 is an advanced mid-sized business jet. It entered operation in 2014. The executive aviation division of the Brazilian company has followed in the footsteps of its commercial aviation peers. The Legacy 500 competes in the mid-light and mid-sized segments. This executive jet does not shy away from competition, and I can see why.
Delays with the fly-by-wire system development pushed the introduction of the Legacy 500 to 2014. The original model of the jet had a short but busy production run. The Brazilian company delivered the first Praetor 600 in December 2019, and the last Legacy 500 left the factory in 2020. The Legacy 500 paved the way for the Praetor 600 to dominate the mid-sized jet segment.
Bottom Line Up Front
The Embraer Legacy 500 sets the gold standard for mid-sized business jets. It is affordable and reliable, which set the stage for the Brazilian company to dominate the segment with the introduction of the Praetor 600.
Embraer entered the business jet market in 2002. The first Brazilian foray into this segment was a modest jump from other endeavors. The company converted the ERJ-135 regional airliner into a business jet with 13 seats. Embraer marketed the EMB-135BJ (Business Jet) as the Legacy 600.
While similar to the airliner version on the outside, the Legacy 600 received several aerodynamic refinements, including winglets. The business jet also has an additional fuel tank, which gave it a higher maximum range of 3450 nautical miles and a service ceiling of 41000 ft.
The Legacy 600 series fits into the heavy business jet class. It sold 298 units between 2000 and 2020. Despite the warm reception, Embraer knew that the operation and acquisition costs for a plane as large as the Legacy 600 were prohibitive for most clients. In 2005, the company decided to expand into smaller segments.
The first Embraer clean-sheet business jet design was the Phenom 100. It began operations in late 2008, with a capacity for four to seven passengers. Embraer kept the T-tail design with engines on the fuselage but opted for a straight wing. The Phenom 100 range is 1178 nautical miles, with a service ceiling of 41000 ft and a modest top speed of Mach 0.7.
Embraer worked its way up the size ladder after the Phenom 100. The company delivered the first Phenom 300 in 2009. The new jet kept the overall arrangement but incorporated a noticeable wing sweep, an extended fuselage, and expanded seating to eleven people. The maximum speed increased to Mach 0.78, and the range almost doubled to 2010 nautical miles. As of 2022, the Phenom 300 has over half the light business jet market.
Success across many categories inspired Embraer to aim for the last gap in its executive aviation lineup. The Legacy 500 is the first Embraer mid-sized business jet. It falls between the Phenom 300 and Legacy 600 in terms of cost and capabilities.
Development began in 2008 when Embraer started selecting the core components for the project. The company picked the Honeywell HTF7500E turbofan to power the Legacy 500, a proven design popular among other business jets. Embraer incorporated the Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion avionics suite. The Pro Line series debuted on Brazilian aircraft in the ERJ-145. The design specified fly-by-wire controls, for which Embraer contracted Parker Hannifin.
Embraer had finished most of the design in 2011, ahead of the proposed schedule. The first flight of the Legacy 500 would still have to wait a year due to delays in the development and integration of the fly-by-wire system. Despite this setback, Embraer rolled out the first prototype in December and began ground testing while Parker Hannifin worked on the flight controls.
The Embraer Legacy 500 finally performed its first flight in November 2012, beginning a testing and certification regime that spanned 1800 flight hours. The jet received its Brazilian, American, and European certifications before the end of that year. Deliveries began shortly afterward, and the rest is history.
Embraer Legacy 500 / Specs
The general arrangement of the Legacy 500 strongly resembles the Phenom 300. The two Embraer business jets have swept wings at a 27-degree angle, an elegant nose, a high T-tail, and engines mounted on the fuselage. Embraer kept the location of most doors and access panels similar as well.
The Legacy 500 has a wingspan of 63 ft 2 in and is 68 ft 1 in long. The top of the tail sits 21 ft 2 in above the ground. The Embraer Legacy 500 has a traditional tricycle landing gear with two wheels per landing gear leg.
The maximum takeoff weight is 38360 lbs. This includes a fuel capacity of 13050 lbs with a maximum payload of 2900 lbs.
Power comes from a pair of Honeywell HTF7500E turbofan engines. Each engine outputs 7036 lbf, with fuel consumption of 950 lb/h on cruise settings. Honeywell built the HTF7000 series specifically for business jet applications. This powerplant also features in most of the competitors of the Legacy 500. Honeywell designed the HTF7500E for on-condition maintenance protocols, which helps lower costs and increase reliability.
Embraer continued a tradition of using the Rockwell Collins Pro Line avionics suite in the cockpit, this time in the Fusion edition. The Phenom 100 and 300 use a similar package. There are three large multifunction displays on the instrument dashboard and a fourth one ahead of the throttle console.
The Pro Line Fusion lives up to its moniker. Once the crew enters weight and balance information on the ground, the avionics automatically calculate the speeds important to the pilots for takeoff. This data appears in the primary flight display. The computer adjusts cruise parameters based on fuel burn and updated balancing. The system is also capable of informing pilots of any imbalance detected. Each crew member has a discrete flight management system (FMS).
The Legacy 500 has an autothrottle and an advanced autopilot system. The jet is certified for RVSM airspace, ETOPS, CAT II ILS, step approaches, and high-altitude fields.
Control comes from a closed loop fly-by-wire system active on all axes. Beyond improving flight safety, this measure also helps lower fuel consumption. The Legacy 500 is the first Embraer aircraft to replace the iconic M-shaped yoke with a pair of sidestick controls. I think this was a move in the right direction, but I would be lying if I said it did not take some of the uniqueness away from the cockpit.
The pressurized passenger cabin seats up to 12 passengers, though most operators configure it for eight. Beyond the additional room and comfort, this change also improves fuel consumption. The pressurization system keeps the interior at an altitude of 6000 ft. Alvadi Serpa of Embraer Executive Jets says the Legacy 500 cabin is up to four decibels quieter than the Challenger 300.
The Legacy 500 uses the Honeywell Ovation Select cabin management system. This package allows passengers to control the cabin using smartphones or tablets. It also features surround-sound audio.
Unlike the Phenom series, the 6 ft tall cabin on the Legacy 500 allows most passengers to comfortably stand up in flight. The flat floor adds to the spacious feeling inside the jet.
The aircraft has a galley and a lavatory for comfortable long flights. The baggage compartment has a volume of 155 cubic feet, plus another 45 cubic feet for carry-on luggage inside the cabin.
Embraer Legacy 500 / Prices
During the 2008 EBAA, Embraer priced the Legacy 500 at $18.4 million. This price rose to $20 million shortly after the aircraft entered service.
Embraer Legacy 500 / Performance and Handling
Thanks to the 27º wing sweep, the Embraer Legacy 500 has a maximum speed of Mach 0.83. The business jet typically cruises at 436 knots, or approximately Mach 0.77. Increasing the cruise speed to Mach 0.8 reduces the range by 3%. The Legacy 500 takes 22 minutes to reach the typical cruise altitude of 43000 ft, but the aircraft has a service ceiling of 45000 ft.
In the standard 8-passenger configuration, the Legacy 500 has a range of 2948 nautical miles plus IFR reserves and provisions for diverting out to 200 nautical miles. This range grows to 3125 nautical miles under similar conditions but with four passengers.
The fly-by-wire system of the Legacy 500 provides handling logic similar to that of the Dassault Mirage 2000 supersonic fighter. The pilot sets the desired attitude and attitude by deflecting the stick, then releasing it. The flight control system will hold these commands until the pilot moves the controls again. While there is no direct feedback from the aircraft to the pilot, the sidesticks are spring-loaded to make them feel more familiar.
Pilots used to different systems may take time to acclimatize. Embraer aimed for comfort and precision across the envelope. As Matt Thurber of Aviation International News described, the aircraft will hold the bank angle and altitude without additional deflection.
During takeoff, the Legacy 500 engages the takeoff control laws once it reaches 65 knots of airspeed. In this mode, the pilot uses the sidestick to control the desired pitch rate rather than actually actuating the elevators. Embraer picked this logic as it felt safer to this regime. Once the pilot finds the desired pitch rate, releasing the stick commands the fly-by-wire system to hold that attitude. The aircraft disengages takeoff mode up to five seconds after the liftoff, as indicated by the weight on wheels sensor.
Landing the Legacy 500 is convenient thanks to the tactile control steering (TCS) trimming system. Once the landing gear and flaps are deployed, using the trimmer automatically trims the aircraft to maintain the current speed. The Embraer Legacy 500 has a rated landing distance of 2122 ft, with a balanced field length of 4084 ft at maximum takeoff weight.
Much like the fly-by-wire system associated with Airbus airliners, the Legacy 500 prevents pilots from exceeding the nominal flight envelope. This system traditionally operates with a safety margin where the pilot can get within a 4% margin of the limit established for any given parameter. The Legacy 500 also includes overspeed protection. The autopilot overrides the controls and puts the jet into a climb to shed speed after passing Mach 0.83.
In case of an emergency incapacitating the flight control system, it is possible to switch to direct control. In this mode, the Embraer Legacy 500 sidestick deflection determines proportional movements of the control surfaces. There are no envelope protections outside of an aural and visual stall warning, so direct control mode is used exclusively during emergencies.
The Embraer Legacy 500 has safety provisions for doubled sidestick inputs. This is a necessary safety measure as there is no link between the controls on each side of the cockpit. If the pilot and co-pilot move their sticks on the same axis, the flight control system translates the sum of the inputs to the surfaces. Both pilots also receive an aural warning with a vibration on their sidestick to indicate the presence of multiple inputs. Each sidestick has a button on top that allows a pilot to take priority.
Much like the commonality of parts between the two aircraft, the handling characteristics of the Legacy 500 and Legacy 450 are functionally identical. This allows Embraer to cover both business jets under the same type rating, with no additional training required for crews transitioning between the two models.
Embraer Legacy 500 / Maintenance Schedule
I am taking an average of 200 flight hours a year for the cost assumptions, as this is the number reported by Embraer as most common among non-commercial Legacy 500 operators. The Honeywell HTF7500E engines on the Legacy 500 cost approximately $650 in maintenance per flight hour, with other components in the airframe making up $320.
Owners also have to account for around $4300 monthly in fixed costs. According to Aviation Week, the Legacy 500 fleet achieved average dispatch reliability of 99% and up.
The Honeywell HTF7500E turbofan engines use on-condition maintenance protocols instead of scheduled overhauls and teardown inspections. This powerplant becomes much more affordable to operators and improves availability rates. Budgeting for maintenance can be an issue without a maintenance service program.
For convenience, Embraer designed the Legacy 500 with maintenance intervals that match the engine ones. The aircraft must undergo inspections at 1500, 2250-, 4000-, 7000- and 8000-hour marks. Some of these periods can be extended by 500 to 1000 hours if certain conditions are met, as specified in service bulletins.
Unlike many business jets, the windshield on the Embraer Legacy 500 can be replaced from the outside. This design decision shaves hours of labor removing and refitting panels inside the cockpit.
Embraer Legacy 500 / Modifications and Upgrades
Embraer offers a Rockwell Collins EFVS (Enhanced Flight Vision System) upgrade to Legacy 500 users. The system uses an EVS-3000 IR camera on the nose to project improved terrain data on an HGS-3500 HUD installed on the pilot’s seat. The EFVS allows for safer approaches and lower minima in low lighting or poor weather conditions.
The Legacy 500 was developed in tandem with the Legacy 450. Both jets received a significant revamp in 2018. The Legacy 500 and 450 gave way to the Praetor 600 and 500, which replaced the older aircraft in production. Though the Praetor 600 looks similar to the Legacy 500, the new jet received extensive avionics, aerodynamic, and powerplant upgrades. The resulting aircraft enjoys lower fuel consumption and an awe-inspiring range of 4018 nautical miles plus reserves.
Brazil is the only country to operate the Legacy 500 as a military aircraft. The business jet flies under the designation IU-50 and serves as a radar calibration and airfield equipment inspection aircraft. The mission is essential to keep the Brazilian airfield infrastructure operating at its peak.
Embraer Legacy 500 / Where to Find Replacement Parts
The Legacy 500 and Legacy 450 models have 95% parts commonality, which has proven to improve the availability of parts worldwide.
Embraer Legacy 500 / Common Problems
Following its introduction, the Legacy 500 reached impressive readiness rates matching or exceeding 99%. This business jet family left most of its problems behind during the certification phase, but they were plentiful. Constant troubles during the development of the fly-by-wire system delayed the first flight by a year, but the jet left its growing pains in the past.
In June 2022, Honeywell identified corrosion issues in the thrust reverser unit. The problem only exists in engines where the reversers and beams have the CA8000 coating. To remedy this, the engine manufacturer recommends changing the topcoat from CA8000 to MAPAERO XS420. Engines affected require approximately three weeks for permanent repairs, including corrosion removal and repainting of the thrust reversers.
Embraer Legacy 500 / Insurance Options
According to data gathered by Guardian Jet for an estimate of 300 annual flight hours, the Embraer Legacy 500 costs $28120 in hull insurance plus $35000 in liability insurance per year. These numbers assume a reasonably experienced crew with many hours on business jets and at least 100 hours in the Legacy 500 or Legacy 450. Aviation insurance quotes vary greatly depending on the proficiency level of the pilots, and the difference becomes particularly stark in the business jet segment.
Embraer Legacy 500 / Resale Value
Many business jets see their price fall off a cliff in the used market, and this tendency affects the mid-sized segment more than others. However, the Embraer Legacy 500 resale value does not suffer as much as its competitors. The cheapest Legacy 500 listed in Controller magazine was valued at $11.75 million. A late production model with low hours can fetch around $20 million. This was the price for a new Legacy 500 during its short production run.
Embraer Legacy 500 / Owner Reviews
Most people who own or operate business jets need them to get from point A to point B quickly, comfortably, and at a moment’s notice. For an aircraft to perform this role well, it has to be constantly available for sorties and actually depart on every scheduled flight. One of the main reasons why owners cherish the Embraer Legacy 500 so much is its ability to match those demands.
Data from Embraer and commercial operators show the Legacy 500 has dispatch reliability above 99%, which translates into unwavering confidence in the jet being ready to perform whenever required. Private owners have also noted the flexibility given by modern maintenance procedures. The Embraer Legacy 500 has to go to the hangar less often than most jets in its class, and its stays are typically far shorter.
I spoke to pilots from the Brazilian Air Force who have experience with the Legacy 500. They universally praised its flight control system and handling characteristics. Transitioning from more hands-on jets to the Legacy 500 can be awkward. After getting used to it, the business handles like a dream by their account. One of the pilots who transitioned to business jets from fighter aircraft believes the Garmin G3000 Prodigy on the new Phenom 300 is more user-friendly, but this is a matter of taste.
Embraer Legacy 500 / Similar Aircraft
Embraer is not shy about taking on serious competition, and the Legacy 500 is no exception. The company’s first mid-sized business jet goes up against aircraft in its class but eats into the lower segment of the super mid-sized market.
Bombardier lost its main competitor to the Legacy 500 when the Learjet family met its end. The Canadian aerospace company stayed in the market with the Challenger 300 and 350. This series is more expensive than the Legacy 500. Many commercial operators prefer it due to the commonality with fleets predating the Embraer offering.
In 2022, the Cessna Citation family is the main competitor for domination in the midsize market. The Citation family features the Sovereign+, which sells for around $18 million and enjoys performance similar to the Legacy 500. The more expensive Citation X blows both the Sovereign and the Legacy out of the water with its maximum speed of Mach 0.935. This added performance is not free. The Cessna Citation X suffers from higher costs and lower dispatch reliability.
Question: How much does an Embraer Legacy 500 cost?
Answer: According to Aircraft Cost Calculator, a new Embraer Legacy 500 with the standard equipment options cost around $18 million.
Question: How far can a Legacy 500 fly?
Answer: The Embraer Legacy 500 can fly out to 3125 nautical miles.
Question: Does Embraer still make the Legacy 500?
Answer: Yes, Embraer builds the Praetor 600, an upgraded variant of the Legacy 500 with a higher payload and range.
Question: Does the Legacy 500 use fly-by-wire controls?
Answer: Yes. Following a tradition introduced by Embraer with the E-Jet series, the Legacy 500 uses fly-by-wire controls.
Question: How fast is the Embraer Legacy 500?
Answer: The Legacy 500 has a maximum cruise speed of Mach 0.83.
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