Honda’s new aircraft division shifts into gear

 - September 12, 2006, 8:23 AM

Two weeks after Honda revealed its long-anticipated commercial plans for the HondaJet, the Japanese company on August 8 established a wholly owned subsidiary–Honda Aircraft–that will develop, market and produce the engine-over-the-wing very light twinjet. The new company will be based at the Piedmont Triad International Airport in Greensboro, N.C., where the HondaJet prototype was assembled and has been engaged in test flying since Dec. 3, 2003.

Michimasa Fujino, the chief engineer who led development of the HondaJet and spent the past 20 years guiding Honda’s aviation activities, is the president and CEO of Honda Aircraft. According to Honda, the aviation subsidiary will be fully operational by next month.

Honda Aircraft will begin taking orders for the airplane at next month’s NBAA Convention in Orlando, Fla. In late July, Fujino said the HondaJet would cost less than $4 million, though he declined to provide a more specific figure. The company is expected to reveal more details about the HondaJet, including its price, at next month’s NBAA Convention.

One of the top items on Honda Aircraft’s to-do list is to develop a production version of the composite-fuselage, aluminum-wing HondaJet. Then it will pursue both type and production certification, which is expected in 2009 or 2010. The jet will be certified to FAR Part 23 standards.

The Greensboro-based subsidiary also will manage Honda’s new alliance with Piper Aircraft, under which the two companies will collaborate on sales and service. Honda said the goal of this alliance is “to provide a new level of sales and service to meet the needs of jet customers, with the goal of setting a higher standard for the quality of the ownership experience.”

However, Piper’s affiliation with Honda doesn’t preclude it from developing its own jet. Piper CEO James Bass said the company is going to “announce a product” at the NBAA show next month, something that is “complementary to the HondaJet, not in competition with it.” Industry insiders believe that Piper is pursuing a single-engine personal jet.

In the meantime, Honda is finalizing its plans for manufacturing the HondaJet in the U.S. However, the company said it will not “discuss site selection information until the details are final and a formal announcement is made.”

At press time, the seven-seat HondaJet prototype had completed more than 240 hours of flight-testing and had been flown to FL430 and 412 knots. According to Honda, the HondaJet is “on course” to meet or exceed all of its design specifications.