Honda Aircraft has been awarded final type certification for the HondaJet, allowing deliveries of the light business jet to begin.
The certification also means that the full effect of Honda Aircraft’s first aircraft offering will begin to be felt in the business jet market and by competing aircraft makers, including Wichita’s Textron Aviation and Bombardier Learjet.
While the single-pilot HondaJet – with seating for up to six passengers and a $4.5 million price tag – comes in at the low end of the business jet market, one expert thinks the jet is only the company’s first offering.
“I think you have to look at the Honda investment as a long-term investment,” aviation forecaster Rolland Vincent said Wednesday. “They’ve made a bet on business aviation … This is the beginning. This is not the end.”
Honda Aircraft said in a news release Wednesday evening that the certification was awarded Tuesday. It said it will begin to ramp up production of the airplane, 25 of which are on its final assembly line.
FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Cory said in an e-mail to The Eagle that the type certificate had been awarded, but referred details of it to Honda Aircraft.
The awarding of the certificate comes 12 years after a proof-of-concept HondaJet took flight on Dec. 3, 2003. In 2006, the company made application for type certification. In March, it was awarded provisional type certification by the FAA.
“We established Honda Aircraft as a new aerospace company and introduced our first product — an advanced light jet with technologies developed from serious research activities,” Honda Aircraft CEO Michimasa Fujino said in Wednesday’s release. “We designed, tested, and have now certified this clean-sheet design aircraft — an unprecedented challenge for Honda.”
Vincent said while the development and certification process has been a “very long process,” Honda Aircraft has “done things very well and very carefully.”
“The build quality is impressive,” he said. “The composite fuselage is very, very clean.”
Vincent added the performance of the jet, including its fuel burn and speed, “sets a new, high watermark.”
More importantly, he thinks the more than 500,000 square feet of facilities the company has built at the Piedmont Triad International Airport in Greensboro, N.C., has the capacity to produce more than just one type of jet.
“They have sized and scaled the business to go up market,” he said.
That said, Honda Aircraft will have to validate itself to the business jet market. It can’t do it by simply staking itself on the reputation of its automaker parent.
“Honda, of course, is a magical brand,” Vincent said. “And in this segment they’ll have to prove themselves.”
The proof will come not only in Honda Aircraft’s ability to sell the new jets, but also the ability to service and support them all over the world, Vincent said.
Vincent said the biggest difference in Honda Aircraft’s business plan compared with other business jet manufacturers is its distribution network. Instead of selling directly to the buyer, in some parts of the U.S. it has created a network of dealers that will sell the jets to buyers.
“You see it in the turboprop market, but not in the jet market,” he said.
“We’ll see where that all goes,” Vincent added. “I think the distribution model, where they have dealers, is untested.”