HondaJet F1 Flying Toward Certification

 - January 26, 2011, 4:15 AM

On December 20, Honda Aircraft achieved a milestone in the development of the HA-420 HondaJet when it flew the first conforming HondaJet, launching the formal flight-test program that will lead to FAA certification next year and first deliveries in the third quarter of 2012. This was also the first flight of the HondaJet powered by the GE Honda Aero HF120 engine, which is more powerful than the Honda-designed and -built HF118 used in the prototype HondaJet. The conforming jet, labeled F1, is also flying with the production cockpit interior, including the Garmin G3000 avionics suite.

Since that first flight by Honda Aircraft chief test pilot Warren Gould, two other company pilots have flown the HondaJet. Honda Aircraft president and CEO Michimasa Fujino said that the number of hours flown by the first conforming HondaJet is confidential. But despite challenging weather on the East Coast, test pilots have been able to conduct basic system testing, handling quality evaluation, avionics systems testing, nosewheel steering, landing gear operation and emergency blowdown tests of the landing gear.

Test pilots have been expanding the flight envelope, Fujino said, “step by step.” Speed is up to 250 knots and was expected to grow to 300 to 350 knots during January. “In a couple of months we’ll expand to the full envelope,” he said.

The HondaJet “is performing better than we expected,” said Gould. “We were able to take what we learned from the integrated test facility [ITF] and the proof-of-concept prototype [POC] and haven’t had any surprises. We’re working through the initial systems and handling qualities tests. We’ll continue to expand the envelope. We’re happy and impressed with what we’re seeing, there have been no issues and we’re in a position to keep moving forward.

“The airplane’s flight characteristics have been excellent,” he added. “Control harmony is good, maneuverability and the flight controls are excellent and [the airplane is] stable within the regimes we’ve tested.” Although he hasn’t flown F1 in IFR conditions, the HondaJet is a solid IFR platform, he said, “and well matched for that. Dutch roll damping is positive, which is changed from the POC.”

Proof of Concept Data Integrated

One change from the POC to the conforming HondaJet is that the vertical stabilizer area was enlarged by about 3 percent. The HondaJet will have a yaw damper for high altitudes but it won’t be needed at low altitudes and in any case won’t be a dispatch-required item.

HondaJetde-icing is bleed air for the wings and electromagnetic expulsive deicing for the horizontal stabilizer, similar to the system on the Hawker Beechcraft Premier IA.

The cockpit is much more than the Garmin G3000 avionics and the touchscreen controllers that are used to interface with the avionics. “We spent a lot of time to optimize or fine-tune the cockpit controls and displays,” Fujino said, “and even the location of each control system for [safety].”

“The workload is low,” Gould added. “The touchscreens are great, and there are no issues with inadvertent touches.” The large G3000 touchscreen controllers are mounted on the forward pedestal under the center-located MFD.

The GE Honda Aero HF120 engines so far have been “bulletproof,” Gould said. “We’ve done slams and all the abused engine [tests] and haven’t seen any adverse characteristics at all. The engine is smooth and predictable. Interior noise seems to be low.”

Honda Aircraft has been flying the POC since Dec. 3, 2003, generating volumes of data on aerodynamic, performance and handling qualities, according to Fujino. The ITF is more than a traditional iron bird used for systems testing and allowed Honda engineers to refine the design based on air load reaction force testing of flight control surfaces. It includes an engine simulator so the HF120’s Fadec controls could be tested, too. “That is a big difference compared to existing OEMs,” said Fujino.

Five conforming HondaJets are planned. HondaJet F1 will continue flight testing while F2 will be used for static structural testing. F3 should fly early this year, followed by F4. F5 will be used for additional structural testing, including static testing. The first HondaJet with a production cabin interior will be F4 or F5. Honda Aircraft will hold a customer open house this year and invite buyers to see the new Greensboro, N.C., factory. In mid-January the new building was in the final phase of finishing the interior in preparation for HondaJet production.