Honda turbofan flies; bizjet design to follow

 - April 16, 2008, 6:01 AM

On June 10 Honda flew its latest jet engine design for the first time. In the 1,900-lb-thrust range, the engine flew on a modified Cessna CitationJet from Honda’s purpose-built research facility at Atlantic Aero in Greensboro, N.C. Concurrently, Honda is busily at work on a CJ-size airframe in Greensboro, with first flight expected in January.

Perhaps an omen of things to come, the Honda engine replaced the left Williams-Rolls FJ44-1 on the testbed CitationJet. From Tokyo, Honda R&D’s senior chief engineer, Osamu Kubota, told AIN, “Thrust range is similar to that of a Williams-Rolls FJ44-1. And we are aiming at improved fuel consumption by using high-efficiency turbomachinery components, a high thrust-to-weight ratio through simple engine structure and highly reliable operation through an advanced Fadec that uses modern automobile technology.”

But don’t start looking just yet for a place to send a check. Kubota said, “We continue to research and develop this engine purely for technical demonstration. However, we would be very happy to contribute to industry with our technology, if required.”

Regarding the airframe, Kubota was more tight-lipped. “The aircraft is the size of a CJ1; however, it has a larger cabin and is much lighter,” he said. “At this moment we cannot reveal further information. No business schedule has been determined.” AIN has learned that the airframe will have metal wings and empennage, with a composite fuselage.

Honda’s interest in general aviation dates back to at least 1993, when the Japanese auto giant teamed with the University of Mississippi to develop a small composite jet airframe. That project met a dead-end after a prototype flew. In 2000 Atlantic Aero teamed with Honda R&D to design and build a 24,000-sq-ft research facility (with an additional 6,000 sq ft of office space) on Atlantic’s Greensboro leasehold. Atlantic continues its partnership with Honda in development of the engine and airframe. In fact, Atlantic president Don Goodwin was one of the test pilots on board the CitationJet testbed on the June 10 flight.