Honda Aircraft is hoping to certify its new twin HondaJet next year, but president and CEO Michimasa Fujino says the company plans to “fine tune” that schedule once the Honda Aero HF120 engine completes final tests this year.
Engine and aircraft certification were pushed back after the HF120 encountered problems during ice testing last year, forcing GE Honda to change the engine fan design and delay engine certification to mid-2013.
Honda has four aircraft in flight tests, but a portion of that testing will not count toward aircraft certification and must be repeated given the changes in engine design.
Fujino is optimistic that the program is making “good progress,” and that the HondaJet remains on track for delivery late next year.
Honda Aircraft has begun production of the initial customer aircraft. The components, fuselage and wings have been produced and assembly has begun for the first customer aircraft. Fujino expects the company will produce as many as a dozen aircraft next year and have three or four completed aircraft ready for delivery by the end of 2013.
Honda completed a number of tests over the past year, including crew seat crash tests, ultimate load testing,windshield bird strike testing, and light testing.
Honda expects first flight of a fifth aircraft early next year, and recently completed power-on electrical testing.
The company Sept. 27 broke ground on a 90,000-sq.-ft. maintenance, repair and overhaul support center that will house a 24/7 support center. The addition will expand Honda’s presences in Greensboro, N.C. to 600,000 sq. ft. and more than 130 acres.
Honda Aircraft is investing more than $20 million in the center, part of more than $100 million overall to develop the Greensboro campus, Fujino says. The facilities currently employ 750 workers. Fujino expects that number to grow to about 1,000 within the next two years.
Honda Aircraft is not specifying sales details, saying only that the company has orders for more than 100 aircraft. Fujino acknowledges that the light jet segment remains stagnant – he does not expect recovery before 2014 or 2015. But, he notes that while sales have been slow, the program has encountered few cancelations and the backlog has remained strong.
Despite the delays and short-term economic outlook, Fujino says Honda Aircraft has solid backing from its parent: “Honda is a long-term growth company, not a quarterly report company,” he says. Honda is a veteran manufacturer, and “never overestimates or is too optimistic.”
As for the future of Honda Aircraft, Fujino says he has a 20-year plan and “a good understanding” of the capabilities of the existing design and how that could be applied to new products. But for right now, he says Honda Aircraft is focusing on developing the HondaJet and establishing the infrastructure for the new company.