HondaJet Makes First Flight toward FAA Certification

Honda can expect fierce competition from the market leader Cessna in 2012.

Honda Aircraft Company announced today that it has successfully completed the first flight of its FAA-conforming HondaJet light business jet, a step that could now lead to customer deliveries during the third quarter of 2012 of the delayed aircraft.

The first conforming HondaJet took off at 15:31 EST yesterday from Honda Aircraft Company’s world headquarters at the Piedmont Triad International Airport in Greensboro, North Carolina.  

The small $4.5 million business jet remained airborne for 51 minutes while flight characteristics were analyzed and systems checks conducted. Test data gathered during the flight were transmitted real-time to Honda’s flight test telemetry operations, Honda said in a statement.

Honda claims to have more than 100 orders for the HondaJet even though the light business jet is expected to remain severely depressed for at least another year or more. The segment has long been dominated by Kansas-based Cessna Aircraft with its Citation lineup. Since the fall of 2008 after the collapse of Lehman Bothers, which led to the ongoing Global Great Recession, Cessna has laid off almost half of its 16,000 employees.

“This is a very important milestone for the HondaJet program,” said Michimasa Fujino, Honda Aircraft Company President and CEO.

The HondaJet has what could be technological advances in aircraft design, including a unique over-the-wing engine-mount configuration that improves aircraft performance and fuel efficiency by reducing aerodynamic drag. The HondaJet is powered by two GE Honda HF120 turbofan jet engines.

The HondaJet proof-of-concept aircraft has flown more than 500 flight test hours and attained both a top speed of 420 knots (483 mph) and a maximum altitude of 43,000 ft. in flight testing, according to Honda.

Honda has also completed its second FAA-conforming aircraft, which has undergone the structural tests required for the beginning of certification flight testing.

Honda said it also has completed mating of main assemblies for its third FAA-conforming aircraft, which is now in the systems installation phase of completion. This third aircraft will be used for mechanical systems flight testing, upon completion in early 2011. A total of five FAA-conforming aircraft, including one additional flight test aircraft and one additional structural test aircraft, are planned for the certification program.

Honda said it is near finishing its aircraft production facility on its Greensboro campus. The 266,000 square-foot HondaJet factory is scheduled for completion in early 2011. Honda will then begin the process of moving equipment and personnel into the facility and undertaking pre-production preparations and training necessary to support HondaJet production ramp-up beginning in 2012.

About Kenneth Zino

Ken Zino is an auto industry veteran with global experience in print, broadcast and electronic media. He has auto testing, marketing, public relations and communications expertise garnered while working in Asia, Europe and the U.S.
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