Threshold Review: Aerobask Embraer Phenom 300

April 8, 2021

The Phenom 300 is a “Super Light Jet'' aircraft designed and manufactured by the Brazillian aircraft manufacturer Embraer. The popular corporate jet has eleven seats compared to the four of its smaller relative, the Phenom 100. Embraer first flew the Phenom 300 in late April 2008 and began delivery of the type twenty months later in December of 2009.

Respected X-Plane developer Aerobask has quietly been developing their rendition of the Phenom 300 and has provided us with a copy to honestly review with no conditions. As a real-world pilot who flies G1000 suite aircraft, and who has connections to the Phenom 100 and 300, I hope that I can give a well-rounded review on this aircraft. A brief feature list includes the usual Aerobask quality 3D model paired with beautiful textures and materials, high-quality FMOD sounds created by Daniela Rodriguez Careri, an “Enhanced” Laminar XP1000 suite, and a deep system simulation.

Installation

Beginning with the installation process, the Aerobask Phenom 300 is very easy to put in place as it is a simple drag/drop into your X-Plane aircraft folder. Like most other aircraft, you are prompted to activate the aircraft with a key upon the aircraft’s first load.

Maintaining the integrity and currency of the Phenom 300 is a breeze thanks to Aerobask’s use of the popular SkunkCrafts updater. This updater allows you to update your aircraft within the sim either automatically on the sim launch, or by one click inside the menu. Unfortunately, the SkunkCrafts updater plug-in is not included with the aircraft download and is required to be downloaded separately if you wish to use it. It is not clear if the updater is mandatory to update the Phenom 300, or if we can still download the latest version from the store as usual.

Documentation

Aerobask has included extensive documentation for the Phenom. They have included a total of seven PDF files which cover the Flight Manual, Normal Checklists, Performance, Procedures, TOLD Card (LBs and KGs), as well as the recommended settings for the aircraft. I am very impressed by the depth and personality that Aerobask has put into these documents. They are very well written by including all technical performance and standard operating procedures while maintaining an easy-to-read and navigate format for the average sim user.

The included “Flight Manual” document has similar information as the real Phenom 300 Flight Manual, but has been reduced and organized into a document that more suits flight simulation. The document includes information on aircraft specifications, limitations, cockpit panels, avionics, aircraft exterior panels and equipment, and details aimed at flight simulation users such as tips & tricks, AviTab instructions, the menu systems, and Aerobask credits.

Aerobask’s performance document covers everything from thrust setting tables, takeoff analysis tables, to approach and landing data tables.

The procedures document includes similar information found in the real Phenom 300 Flight Manual related to the operation of the aircraft. This document is where you can find emergency, icing, normal, abnormal, as well as a reduced operational checklist.

Aerobask has included absolutely everything that you need to fly the Phenom 300 efficiently and properly in these documents. They have done an exceptional job at making the technical data easy to read and understand. Well done!

Cockpit

The interior of the Aerobask Phenom 300 is exceptional and lives up to Aerobask’s high reputation for quality. Fitting with the usual corporate jet interior, Aerobask’s Phenom 300 includes cream leather cockpit seats in mint condition with the iconic Embraer inverted-V yokes and metallic silver accent plating. The combination of well-made PBR materials and accurate colour textures makes this an exceptionally beautiful aircraft cockpit. As someone very familiar with the Phenom family of jets, I cannot find a single thing that should be improved in the cockpit of Aerobask’s Phenom 300. Every switch is modelled with a high-quality model and paired with intuitive manipulators which make interaction a beautiful breeze.

One thing that I especially like in the cockpit is how Aerobask has modelled the G1000 (XP1000) suite displays. Typically, glass panel display reflections in X-Plane aircraft are either way overdone or way underdone. There is rarely perfect balance. As a real pilot who regularly uses G1000 suites, I can appreciate that Aerobask has nailed the reflection quality of their Phenom 300. This is something very small and niche but really can go a long way in the overall quality of the product.

Another item that I appreciate in the cockpit is how Aerobask has taken the time to model every single circuit breaker in 3D with PBR and accurate labelling. While the simulation is not deep enough to make use of these circuit breakers, it is again something that really shows the fidelity of the modelling. 

These tiny details such as glass panel reflections, modelled and labelled circuit breakers, pens, and headsets laying around the flightdeck really gives me an appreciation for the time Aerobask has invested into their Phenom 300.

Cabin

There are four different cabin options that Embraer offers for their Phenom family. Impressively, Aerobask has chosen to model all four options which are livery-specific.

Following closely with the quality of the cockpit, Aerobask has exceptionally recreated the cabin of the Phenom 300. I am very impressed with the attention to detail that is in this cabin. Every window shade, folding table, door, and light is operable and includes appropriate sound for them.

While playing with the window shades, I did notice that the sounds aren’t as immersive. I went to the back of the cabin and found that a window shade opened at the front of the cabin sounds identical or nearly identical to one opened right beside the camera. This issue is extremely nitpicky, so I don’t believe that it negatively shines on the quality of the cabin.

To give a really good idea of the massive amount of detail that has been poured into this cabin, I noticed that the faucet and toilet work in the lavatory. Pressing the pushbutton on the faucet will turn on the water for 8 seconds. To further the detail in the cabin, the flushing toilet appears to only work while the aircraft is airborne. Pressing the flush button on the ground will only activate a flow of water in the toilet while pressing it in the air will activate the iconic sound of an airplane toilet’s vacuum suction. Very impressive!

Avionics

Looking towards the avionics of the aircraft, the Phenom really shines in many aspects, but begins to show areas that can be improved. Shortly after powering on the XP1000 suite, the aircraft will run a series of automated self-test sequences while TAWS and TCAS play audible tests. All manual and self-test sequences are very well simulated and are faithful to the real plane.

Starting with the ISFD (Integrated Standby Flight Display) on the glareshield, this unit has an onboard AHRS (Attitude Heading Reference Unit) which takes just over a minute to align. During alignment, it is crucial that the aircraft is not moved. While aligning the ISFD, I moved the plane around rapidly using the X-Plane map tool. This did not seem to impede or disrupt the alignment in any way. I was hoping that a custom instrument like the ISFD would have a properly simulated alignment process and would include consequences for not respecting the alignment time. Unfortunately, it will align regardless of the aircraft’s movement and evidently does not have any adverse results after an alignment while moving.

Moving down to the G1000 PFD units, it is disappointing that Aerobask opted to use the default XP1000 units. They have modified the XP1000s substantially, but have not fixed any of the issues/inaccuracies of them. The default G1000 avionics lack many tools/pages such as the Storm Scope page, Weather Data Link page, TAWS page, INTC/NDB/VOR/User WPT Info pages, Trip-Planning page, Utility page, and most importantly it is missing the Checklist page. While most of these pages are seldom used, they do have specific purposes which can be crucial for a niche flight situation.

For example, flying this Phenom 300 into an airport like Telluride in Colorado, U.S., it is very important to have a proper TAWS page rather than just a TAWS overlay so you can confidently navigate mountain valleys as the TAWS overlay on the map screen. While the limitations from the XP1000 are moderate, every feature and page necessary for 90% of flights are working flawlessly. I understand that this is not an issue with Aerobask’s work, but it is a drawback given the decision to include a system that is incomplete as the primary means of operating the aircraft.

The PFD includes synthetic vision. Real-world G1000’s in the legacy Phenoms did not have any form of synthetic vision delivered from Embraer, however later models had an optional SVT package. I am unsure if Aerobask has opted to simulate an SVT upgrade which some Phenoms have undergone, or if Aerobask was in efforts to bridge the gap between the XP1000 units and G3000 or G1000 NXi units found on newer Phenoms. Phenoms with the standard Prodigy avionics suite do not have any of the additional features as upgraded on the Prodigy Touch (G3000) or Prodigy G1000 NXi upgrade. It is unclear which version of the Prodigy G1000 suite Aerobask has tried to simulate, but unfortunately, neither of them fit the resultant simulation well.

Onwards to the MFD, Aerobask has added custom system pages to the MFD specific to the Phenom 300. I can’t comment on the accuracy of the content of these pages, but I would imagine that they are accurately tested by Aerobask’s Phenom 300 flight crew on their beta team. The MFD is built on Laminar’s XP1000 system, so the same set of limitations and inaccuracies exist as on the PFD. The MFD has some pixelation on the left side where there are curved lines. For example, the FLAPS cross-section has pixelation on the wing form. I believe that this is a limitation with X-Plane’s panel instrument system, however.

For many, the G1000 suite can be frustrating. I know that I hate the avionics suite both in real life and in-sim because of how the entire FMS is controlled by two small rotary knobs. It can take a lot of precious time to enter an entire route, especially if it is a long one. Thankfully, the Phenom 300 uses a combination of XP1000 knobs and a keypad which alleviate the frustration of the tiny knobs and drastically improves usability.

Sounds

Sound is another area that the Phenom 300 excels. The FMOD sound is complete ear candy: everything that you would expect to make noise has been faithfully and believably recreated in Aerobask’s Phenom 300. I deeply commend Aerobask (Daniela Rodriguez Careri specifically) for their work on the FMOD sound. The only issue that I can find related to sound is the window shade sounds mentioned above.

Placing the camera outside the aircraft is just as appealing as inside. On the takeoff roll, you can really get an appreciation for the Pratt & Whitney PW535E engines which sound exactly like what an iconic business jet should sound like.

There are lots of goodies to be found in the aircraft that are coupled with Daniella’s amazing sound work that I will leave to be discovered. You’re in for a treat!

Flight Dynamics

The Aerobask Phenom 300 behaves exactly as you would expect a light corporate jet to behave. The Phenom 300 sits comfortably at 75% the speed of sound at cruise while still maintaining a shockingly low stall speed (Vs0) of 89 KIAS in landing configuration. While enjoying my time with the Phenom, I took it through its paces with upper-air work. Aerobask’s rendition stalls exactly as a pilot would predict it to. Control degradation is very prominent up until the point of a stall at which point the nose drops, and recovers almost without input.

Landing the Phenom 300 is a lot of fun. The low stall speed makes the aircraft able to operate out of virtually any airport and makes it great for tight turns within mountain valleys. Pilots get the best of both worlds when flying the Phenom: slow and maneuverable on one end, and ultra-fast and stable on the other. I don’t think any sim pilot could be disappointed by the way this aircraft flies.

Exterior Modelling

Similarly to the interior, Aerobask has spent an exceptional amount of work on ensuring that their rendition is as true-to-life as it can be. It is absolutely worthy of their reputation.

The Phenom 300 ships with nine liveries, one of which is a 2K livery for pilots with lower-end machines.

Something that really caught my eye was the addition of an operable fuel panel. I am not too sure just how often pilots will use this feature, but it is a welcome addition and shines a light on the quality of the product.

Aerobask has also included the usual array of ground service equipment and static elements that have become widely accepted as standard in the X-Plane add-on market.

Conclusion

I am thoroughly impressed with Aerobask’s Phenom 300. Nearly everything is very satisfying and well-made. I am sure that this rendition of the Phenom 300 will be included in the list of the best business jets available for home flight simulators.

While the interior is stunning and near-perfect, the pilot’s office only had one issue which is the limitation of the XP1000. For most home pilots, this won’t be any form of a drawback, however.

I highly recommend this aircraft to anyone who has an interest in corporate aviation or to someone who wants to try something new. I’m sure you won’t regret your purchase.

I’d like to thank the team at Aerobask for allowing me to review their impressive product.

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