For General Electric, the 50/50 partnership with Honda to produce and market the HF120 turbofan is a return to GE’s roots in the small-turbine-engine marketplace. “This relationship with Honda is somewhat of a renaissance,” said Bill Dwyer, president of the GE Honda Aero Engines partnership. “If you look at the heritage of GE, our business started as a small-engine company.”
As GE has grown into providing the largest turbofan engines, it never lost sight of the small-engine market, according to Dwyer, a 21-year GE veteran. “We’ve looked at the small-engine market as long as I’ve been in the company,” he said. What GE brings to the partnership with Honda is vast experience building and supporting commercial aircraft engines. “The value equation for business aviation is exactly the same as the value equation for commercial aviation,” he explained. “It’s all about engines that burn less fuel, that have lower maintenance costs and that are highly reliable.” With all the activity in smaller business jets, he added, “it’s the right time for us to jump back in, and for us it’s the right partnership to jump in with.”
The HF120 is not the only engine on the GE Honda Aero menu. “We hope to build a portfolio,” Dwyer said. The partnership contract covers engines ranging from 1,000 to 3,500 pounds of thrust.
The HF120 engine core has been running since April, and the full-up test version of the HF120 made its first test run earlier this month. The 2,095-pound-thrust HF120 has been selected to power Honda Aircraft’s HondaJet and Spectrum Aeronautical’s S-40 Freedom. Engine certification is scheduled in 2009 to prepare for entry-into-service in 2010. More than 200 HF120s have been ordered, according to GE.
During the rest of this year, the GE Honda Aero team will finalize the HF120 design and start releasing hardware for certification test engines. This testing will begin next year, and seven engines are planned for the certification program.
The first production engines will be manufactured at GE’s Lynn, Mass. facility, then production will shift to a new GE Honda Aero plant under construction in Burlington, N.C., about 30 miles east of Honda Aircraft’s Greensboro factory. The Burlington facility will have capacity to build 1,000 HF120s per year, and if more capacity is needed, GE-Lynn can handle additional demand. Meanwhile, much of the HF120 engineering and testing is being done at Lynn and Honda facilities in Tokyo.
Running a new engine for the first time is “very exciting,” said Dwyer. “It’s extremely fulfilling to the design team as well as the supply chain and the manufacturing team to see the product run. It’s a fulfilling time, especially as we hit our milestones.”