Photo: Courtesy of Honda Aircraft Company
Honda Motor has long been a crowd pleaser. Its cars, motorcycles, and lawnmowers are consumer favorites around the world. Now the Japanese giant is about to try its hand at producing a light jet, and by all indications, the plane will be another winner.
The unusually light and speedy HondaJet, priced at $4.5 million and capable of carrying four to six passengers, looks set to win Federal Aviation Administration certification by first-quarter 2015. It will be the most expensive aircraft in its class, but buyers already are lining up. The company claims that its first two years of production are sold out, though it refuses to disclose exactly how many jets it is capable of producing per year.
Honda has been quietly laying the groundwork for this since 1986. Back then, wanting to better understand aircraft design, Honda sent Michimasa Fujino, now 54, to Mississippi State University’s Raspet Flight Research Lab. It was at Raspet that the young Honda engineer eventually designed and built two research aircraft.
The second of these, the MH02, was an all-composite, 8,000-pound, high-wing twin jet with the engines mounted atop the wings, which Fujino would later enhance and dub Otwem, for over-the-wing engine mount, since that was the key distinguishing feature of the plane. He figured that this aesthetically challenged configuration -- which looked vaguely like a giant attacking insect from a 1950s horror movie -- would allow for bigger cabins and improved aerodynamics. After Honda green-lighted a move into the light-jet market, Fujino set about converting his MHO2 research into a commercially viable aircraft.
As Fujino and his team refined the jet over nearly a decade, they also built a massive, state-of-the-art manufacturing, engineering, and service center in Greensboro, N.C. -- for an estimated $140 million. This is now Honda Aircraft, where Fujino serves as CEO and oversees more than 1,200 employees.
Check out the rest of the Mark Huber’s story here!