As sights of the downtown frenzy fade in the rear-view mirror, the regatta images of Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez flood my mind and whisk me passed the scenery ahead. There’s no rush to get to the Brussels executive airport, but this is the trip we’ve been waiting for all year, and it just can’t begin soon enough. Great friends are joining us, and some new ones as well, including a last-minute addition, today. Needing room for one more passenger—and their baggage—often means having to switch to a larger aircraft. This change would not only cost much more, but in the case of La Môle-Saint Tropez Airport, we might not even be able to land there. We’d only be able to go as far as Nice, and a second charter of a helicopter or a boat to La Môle-Saint Tropez was not in the trip we had imagined, nor was a windy road drive down to the coast in several cars. Perhaps next time, as an expedition to experience land, air and sea. This time, we just would like to enjoy the regatta, not compete in it or race to it. The charter company assured us that this is the most modern aircraft on the market, and that we would not need to upgrade. I was relieved to learn that it is also the largest jet allowed to fly in and out of La Môle-Saint Tropez airport, even with six passengers and crew, and enough luggage for a week.
Walking up to the jet, my curiosity grew over what made it so modern. I was greeted by Captain Cédric, who welcomed me to SmartAir’s Legacy 450. He invited me into the aircraft, which had only arrived in Europe in January, and gave me the grand tour. What I first noticed was stone flooring in the galley, which I didn’t expect to see there, or anywhere else for that matter, but they also cover the lavatory floor, matching the countertops. I had already seen it on yachts, but the elegant and pristine look and feel of stone on a jet was a first for me. I then learned that Embraer was the first aircraft manufacturer to introduce this material in business jets.
Being able to walk around the cabin, standing at six feet, was also such a relief, as was the complete lavatory with a full-height vanity, hot-and-cold water sink, more storage, and a wardrobe. The coat rod and shelves would save us a trip to the cleaners when we landed.
Securing my seat, I scanned the slick design of the wood, leather and metal details. I felt something was missing, but I couldn’t figure what, at first. The large screen on the cabin wall drew my attention and then I realized that I hadn’t seen a cabin control. Usually they standout along the side ledge, but just as I noticed its absence, I was given an iPad open to a cabin control screen. I did find a control under a discrete lid, but I didn’t see a need for it, and the design was much more enjoyable without it.
Before taking heading to the cockpit, Captain Cédric told me that we would experience fly-by-wire technology from our seats. He gave me no other clue, so I googled it. These are the most advance flight controls; fully digital, which were first used in space, by NASA, to land on the moon. Modern airliners have it also, but only very large business jets have adopted it. He announced our takeoff and I was left wondering what we would experience. I was ready for the engine’s noise to muffle the chatter and force us all to raise our voices, in order to keep our conversations flowing. What a pleasant surprise to hear only a whisper from the engines.
Once we reached cruising altitude, we got to try out the captain’s suggestion for a boardroom layout of the cabin, which allowed us all to see each other. Sure enough, the cabin is so wide that the seats swiveled around and faced the middle of the cabin, and we all joined in on one conversation—or two. We were only interrupted by the aroma from the galley. The ovens and the chilling drawers allowed us to reminisce the Hors d’oeuvre selection from our memories of a restaurant in Paris, which had been the centerpiece of our conversations about our trip in the spring of this year.
The flight was smooth and silent, and about an hour-and-a-half later we had one of the most mesmerizing scenic descents, along the coast of Saint-Tropez. I stopped by the cockpit to thank the pilots, and I asked Captain Cédric what was it about fly-by-wire that I was supposed to have experienced, since I didn’t feel anything other than the smoothest flight on a business jet. He smiled and told me to enjoy the regatta, and that he’d be waiting to take us home.
For more information on Embraer Executive Jets, please visit the web site www.embraerexecutivejets.com.