NBAA Convention News

Movers & Shakers: Honda defined the compact car. Can it do the same thing with a business jet?

 - November 6, 2006, 11:57 AM

On August 8 Honda Motor Co. launched a new company, Honda Aircraft, which will certify the very light HondaJet in three to four years. The company is headed by long-time Honda engineer Michimasa Fujino, who spent the past 20 years quietly studying the aviation marketplace and technology before designing a new airplane that promises to offer strong competition in the sub-10,000-pound business jet class.

Fujino, who graduated from Tokyo University with a degree in aeronautical engineering, wanted to become an automotive engineer when he first began working for Honda, “but two years later,” he said, “Honda started the airplane project and I was assigned to it.” In 1993 Honda sent Fujino to Mississippi State University to work on an unusual-looking composite forward- swept-wing six-seater, dubbed the MH-02.

As a designer, Fujino seems to prefer attaching engines in an unconventional fashion. The HondaJet’s two HF-118 turbofans sit well out of the wing- and fuselage-influenced airstream on vertical pylons. The engines are a Honda design that is being commercialized by a separate company–GE Honda Engines–formed to bring the engine to market.

Fujino took some time out from preparations for NBAA to share his insights with NBAA Convention News.

Will the HondaJet be certified under Part 23 of the FAA regulations?

This is a Part 23 aircraft, but the performance is much better than a normal Part 23 [airplane], so we will try to comply with the Part 25 requirement for safety issues,like for speed definition of V1, VR,V2 and VMC . Those are thingswe are considering in the designphase of the prototype.

Would the over-the-wing engine configuration work for a larger airplane?

Yes, you can build a similar concept up to a regional jet. The advantage is especially for 0.70 to 0.75 [Mach number] aircraft. That configuration may not be best for 0.90 or 0.85 aircraft.

Will Honda’s Acura luxury car division help with interior design?

At this moment, Honda Aircraft is an independent project, so [there is]no direct involvement from Honda automobile engineers.

Has technology improved to the point where it’s now more possible to make the airplane that you want to make?

Especially for a small business jet, there are not many companies that try to challenge new technology because of the effort for research and development. As for Honda, we concentrate on many technologies, like the airfoil, the natural laminar flow wing, optimum fuselage shape and the over-the-wing engine mount configuration.

These are not just flashy ideas, these come from extensive analysis and testing. Our process is first we conduct research and development, and after we get to a good achievement of each technology, those technologies are combined. That’s why HondaJet performs much better than existing business jets.

By having advanced technology, we can even optimize the aircraft. This is just an example, but if the wing performance is 5 percent better and the weight is 5 percent lighter, that is more than 10 percent if we can take advantage of those technologies because airplane design is a combination of all technologies.

The whole is more than the sum of the parts?

Because of the optimization process. Five percent drag does not only mean 5 percent reduction in fuel, because a 5 percent reduction in fuel may contribute to a reduction of weight. So that’s why HondaJet performance, like fuel consumption, is more than 30 percent better than existing business jets.

Is Honda likely to make big changes late in the HondaJet program?

The production airplane is very similar to the prototype HondaJet. That’s why we build a prototype aircraft, to check performance and conduct two years of flight testing to validate performance before we announce the product. Many startup companies try to [publicize] very good performance, but they could not achieve it in the end because of a technology problem or some inopportunistic estimation. As for Honda, we cannot do that, so we concentrate on proof of the performance from the flight test program and have confidence that we could achieve the target performance. And we achieved 412 knots using the prototype engine. The production version of the GE Honda engine performs much better than the prototype so we could achieve the 420 knots.

How will your alliance with Piper Aircraft work?

Product support is very important for all Honda products. We want to use independent dealers, which are dealers of Piper now, and Honda and Piper will collaborate to upgrade existing dealers.

What kind of standards will a dealer have to meet?

There are many specific items which should be complied with [to meet the] Honda standard, and a similar concept will be applied for HondaJet dealers. We provide a sales manual, sales standards, appearance of the dealers, everything. We ask dealers to comply with those higher standards in collaboration with Honda.

How many HondaJets would you like to see in the skies 10 years after certification?

If I go to any airport in the United States, I want to see a HondaJet. This is my dream.