Michimasa Fujino, president and CEO of Honda Aircraft, said here at EBACE yesterday that, “The [HondaJet] program is steadily progressing toward certification and first delivery.” He now expects FAA type certification of the light jet in the fourth quarter of 2014, with EASA certification to follow within six months.
The HA-420 HondaJet is one year behind its production schedule, primarily due to delays in certifying its GE Honda Aero HF120 engine, jointly developed by Honda and GE Aviation. GE Honda Aero expects engine certification in the fourth quarter of this year, and once it is granted, “We can start FAA onboard flight testing, which is driving our schedule,” Fujino said.
With its distinctive over-the-wing engine-mounting scheme, the airframe and powerplant combination promises superior and efficient performance, including a best-in-class 420-knot cruise speed and 43,000-foot maximum altitude. The HondaJet also features an enclosed lavatory, made possible by the space available because the engines are not mounted on the aft fuselage.
Fujino pointed to several milestones illustrating the program’s progress, most recently completion of a fifth FAA-conforming HondaJet and its first flight on May 16. Equipped with a production interior and options, “it will anchor the final leg of our flight test program,” Fujino said, and be used for function and reliability testing to simulate in-service flight operations and for interior and cabin systems tests.
Despite the certification delay, the Greensboro, North Carolina-based company began HondaJet production last October, and expects to have “six to seven in progress at the end of the year,” Fujino said. “Not all the parts are delivered yet.” As for the number that will be completed by the time certification is achieved, “We are now devising the schedule,” he continued. “We will have at least seven or eight aircraft.”
Honda Aircraft plans to build 80 to 90 aircraft per year initially, and its facility is designed to produce up to 100 units per year. Three sales representatives are serving the European market (northern, central and southern Europe), with seven distributors in the U.S. and three in Canada. Meanwhile, the company’s customer service center, capable of servicing a dozen HondaJets simultaneously, is scheduled for completion this fall, with Part 145 certification expected by the end of the year.
Fujino called the HondaJet’s certification delays “regrettable,” but said he and the company had used the time to fine tune the program to increase efficiency prior to the start of production. He also expressed gratitude that few buyers had cancelled their orders for the $4.5 million jet. As for the number of those orders, Honda Aircraft has consistently said, “over a hundred.”