Even as the new HondaJet HA-420 was going through its paces for certification, the industry knew it would be a game changer.
“It is the high performance sports car in the sky,” said AirInsight Partner Ernest Arvai, after the aircraft was granted Part 23 certification by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) last week. In addition to having a taller and roomier cabin than its competitors, Arvai said the HondaJet offers higher performance for its higher price: a speed of 420 knots, a higher operating altitude – up to 43,000 feet – and is 17% more fuel efficient than its competition.
Honda Aircraft CEO Michimasa Fujino calls it the Acura of its class, which could foreshadow a wholesale change in the business aviation marketplace considering that is exactly what Honda and Toyota did to the automobile industry in the 1970s. The big question is whether or not it can meet the high expectations for quality set by Honda Motor , its automaker parent company. But given early reports on its composite fuselage and production quality, it likely won’t take long to find out. The investment in the HondaJet is estimated between $1.5 and $2 billion.
What makes the $4.5 million aircraft different is how HondaJet has tweaked the aerodynamics with a unique design and deployed new materials that contribute to its efficiency. The major aerodynamic change is the unique placement of the GE-Honda engines above the wing. Fujino defied conventional wisdom, which said doing so would negatively impact wing aerodynamics. After testing the concept in a Boeing BA +0.70%wind tunnel, he proved that conventional wisdom wrong by showing that putting the engine above the wing is more efficient than a clean wing. It also makes it easier to stretch the fuselage.
“With the engines above the wings HondaJet leverages natural laminar flow technology to optimize the aerodynamic performance of the wing and fuselage adding to its efficiency,” said Arvai. “The HondaJet has a unique design compared to competitors whose engines are attached to the fuselage.”
The engines also contribute to the unique development of the aircraft, which, dates back in the 1980s, when using engines from other manufacturers was the plan. Instead, it began developing its own engine in partnership with GE Aviation ultimately creating the GE-Honda HF20 turbofan engine..