According to The Nikkei Asian Review today, after decades of painstaking preparation on the ground, the HondaJet is finally poised for commercial take off, with the first plane slated to be delivered this year.
The HondaJet boasts an array of new technologies that the automaker developed by breaking taboos in the aircraft industry.
Michimasa Fujino, president and CEO of Honda Aircraft, the U.S. subsidiary in charge of developing and manufacturing the aircraft, has likened the jet to a luxury sports car. Features that set the plane apart, Fujino said, are its spacious cabin, responsiveness, and excellent acceleration and climbing ability thanks to a lightweight body and powerful engines.
Of the various original features incorporated into the jet, perhaps the one that stands out most is the engine placement.
While most business jets have engines on the rear part of the fuselage, the two engines used for the HondaJet are mounted on the main wing. The company says the proprietary design not only results in a much more spacious cabin, it also enables a higher maximum speed and better fuel efficiency.
Mounting an engine on the main wing was not easy. The company needed to identify an appropriate position for the engine while taking into account steering stability, vibration characteristics and drag. After tinkering with a huge number of variables, Honda discovered the engine's sweet spot, the place where aerodynamic drag was held to a minimum.
Other original features of the HondaJet are drag-reduction designs for the main wing and fuselage, and the use of carbon fiber-reinforced plastic to reduce weight.
To make the aircraft lighter and boost its performance, Honda used two types of carbon fiber composite materials for the fuselage.
In addition to adopting original technologies for the aircraft structure, Honda is also using unique production processes. This includes how the plane is painted.
Honda places extra importance on the painting process because "improving the quality of the painting directly leads to an improvement in the salability (of the aircraft)," said Honda Aircraft's Fujino.
The HondaJet is now undergoing final checks by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration before its delivery to customers later this year. FAA pilots are conducting final test flights using four test planes.
Bringing the jet from concept to reality has been a long, three-decade journey for Honda. The Greensboro plant has already begun assembly work, operating at a pace of 80 units per year. Finally, Honda's dream is about to take flight.