The long wait for the HondaJet to enter service ended late last year after Honda Aircraft received FAA certification for the HA-420 light jet on December 8. While production continues to ramp up at Honda Aircraft’s Greensboro, North Carolina factory, and at the GE Honda Aero Engines 50-50 joint venture in Burlington, North Carolina (where the new jet’s HF120 engines are manufactured), AIN’s Matt Thurber accepted an invitation to fly the aircraft on May 12 in Greensboro, with Honda Aircraft demo pilot and manager of corporate flight operations Tim Frazier.
Before climbing into the real jet, Frazier introduced me to the HondaJet via the HA-420 simulator, housed at the FlightSafety International learning center on the Honda Aircraft campus. This proved to be an excellent way to prepare for the flight and get familiar with the flight deck. FlightSafety did an excellent job with the simulator, and it handles and feels almost exactly like the real airplane.
Overall, the HondaJet delivers better performance than the numbers that Honda Aircraft had published during its long gestation. For example, we exceeded the 420-knot maximum speed during my flight, topping out at 423 ktas while burning about 480 pph per side at FL340. We climbed to FL430, flew a rapid descent, did some maneuvering at lower altitudes including steep turns and approaches to stall stick-shaker, then flew a coupled ILS approach and a touch-and-go and then a full-stop landing.
The HondaJet is a light jet, with a mtow of 10,600 pounds, but handling-wise it feels like a larger jet. Its wing loading is relatively high and it punches easily right through any bumpy air. The controls are not light and snappy, but felt firm and positive and well-harmonized; when trimmed, the HondaJet stays right where you put it, with no tendency to wander while looking elsewhere in the cockpit. The HondaJet’s systems are also fairly sophisticated for a jet in this Part 23 class.
Where the HondaJet really shines is the cockpit design and the integration with the Garmin G3000 flight deck. The placement of all controls is natural and instantly comfortable. Checklists are surprisingly short and simple, and they match a superbly crafted cockpit flow that will help new pilots feel safe and proficient in a short period of time.
Obviously there is much more to the HondaJet, and this short article is just to give some of Matt’s initial impressions; a fully detailed pilot report will follow in AIN’s July issue.