20/Twenty: The Fast, Fashionable HondaJet Elite

HondaJet Elite S, Nigel Prevett photo
A HondaJet Elite S is shown with a geometric paint scheme.
Credit: Nigel Prevett/Aviation Week

Japan’s Honda Motor Co. is nothing if not cautious. It would take nearly 30 years for aircraft designer Michimasa Fujino to bring his concept of a light business jet from the drawing board to delivery; after that milestone, the HA-420 HondaJet ascended rapidly.

The HondaJet first flew from Piedmont Triad Airport in Greensboro, North Carolina, in December 2003 and made its public debut as a demonstrator aircraft at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh in July 2005. Ten years later, on Dec. 8, 2015, subsidiary Honda Aircraft Co. obtained final FAA type certification of the sleek, seven-place, twin-engine bizjet with a nose shaped like a Salvatore Ferragamo high heel.

Since then, Honda Aircraft has introduced two variants, including the HondaJet Elite, which was announced in 2018 with extended range and enhanced avionics and styling. The upgraded Elite S followed in May 2021 with increased maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) and additional avionics features to reduce pilot workload. Last December, Honda announced the delivery of its 200th HondaJet.

The factory-new list price of a HondaJet Elite in 2021 was $5.48 million. The Elite S list price this year is $5.75 million, according to the summer 2022 edition of the Aircraft Bluebook.

Price Appreciation

HondaJet Elite S, Bill Carey photo
An Elite S was displayed at the NBAA White Plains Regional Forum in June. Credit: Bill Carey

As of August, the manufacturer had delivered 215 HondaJets of all variants, according to the Aviation Week Fleet Discovery Database. The total breaks down as follows: 103 in-service HondaJet HA-420s, with one placed in storage and six in the possession of a non-operator, such as a lender or a dealer/broker. There were 76 Elites in service, plus five in the hands of a non-operator; and 23 Elite Ss in service, with one held by a non-operator.

BCA’s 20/Twenty focus aircraft for July 2022—the Cirrus SF50 Vision Jet—had appreciated in value after delivery compared to the manufacturer’s list price. The same dynamic holds true for recent HondaJets, which have either appreciated or held their value compared to list price. At the end of the previous quarter, the average retail price of a mid-time, average 2021 HondaJet Elite S notched up to $5.5 million from $5.48 million, according to the Aircraft Bluebook.

As of August, there were three HondaJet Elites advertised for sale, reports Mike O’Keeffe, senior vice president of Fort Lauderdale-based Banyan Air Service, the top-selling dealer of both new and preowned HondaJets. In the current, dynamic preowned market, Elites are commanding values in the low-to-mid $6 million range, he said.

Over-The-Wing Engine Mount

HondaJet Elite, rear view
Credit: Banyan Air Service

Distinguished by its innovative over-the-wing engine mount (OTWEM) configuration, the HondaJet is powered by twin GE Honda Aero Engine HF120 turbofans, each producing 2050-lb. of thrust, derated from 2095 lbf. The twinjet requires 3,934 ft. takeoff distance in ISA sea level conditions at MTOW (10,500 lb.). Max cruise speed at 30,000 ft. is 422 KTAS; range is 1,223 nm with four occupants and NBAA IFR 100 nm reserves, according to Honda Aircraft. The front office features the Garmin G3000 avionics suite, fronted by three 14-in. displays.

In October 2018, Honda Aircraft announced an Advanced Performance Modification Group (APMG) package for legacy HondaJet HA-420s that reduces take-off field length, increases forward baggage capacity to 200 lb. and increases MTOW to 10,700 lb.

The HondaJet Elite, unveiled at EBACE in Geneva, Switzerland, in May 2018, featured a range extension to 1,437 nm and introduced a noise-attenuating HF120 nacelle inlet structure that reduces both exterior and cabin noise. The Elite also came with avionics performance management enhancements; automatic stability functions for roll and angle-of-attack; autopilot coupled go-around and underspeed protection, and a set of interior equipment options including a belted lavatory.

“Due to the HondaJet Elite’s speed, range and performance the aircraft is in a class of its own,” says O’Keeffe. “As a result of its exterior footprint and appearance, it often gets compared with the Embraer Phenom 100 and Citation M2. Other than the exterior footprint, that’s where the commonality ends.  The HondaJet Elite has the fastest cruise speed, greatest range, highest service ceiling, best time to climb, largest interior cabin and baggage compartment and most sophisticated avionics and equipment. The aircraft operates in a class of its own.”

The Elite S increases MTOW by 200 lb., allowing the jet to carry additional payload or more fuel to fly about 120 nm further with the same payload; a G3000 software upgrade to enable text-based messaging with air traffic control (via the FAA’s Data Comm network) and operation centers (via ACARS); an Advanced Steering Augmentation System in the nosewheel to reduce pilot workload; and new Gunmetal, Luxe Gold and Deep Sea Blue exterior paint schemes.

More Cabin Space

HondaJet Elite cabin
Credit: Banyan Air Service

Fujino’s patented OTWEM design requires no engine support structure inside the fuselage, giving the HondaJet up to 20% more cabin space than similar-sized business jets, the manufacturer claims. The jet’s interior measures 12.1 ft. in length, 4.8 ft. in height and 5 ft. in width, with a baggage volume of 66 cu. ft.

All legacy, APMG and Elite-model HondaJets have a similar cabin layout. The Elite is the first in the series to offer a belted lavatory and 8-seat configuration as well as a Bonjouvi digital sound system. “Hands down, passengers love the quietness and comfort of the cabin,” said O’Keeffe. “A byproduct of the over-the-wing-engine mounting is a level of silence beyond comparison. They also love the fully enclosed, externally serviced flushing lavatory and sink with running water.”

Honda Aircraft offers three levels of airframe maintenance programs, beginning with its standard warranty. The manufacturer offers an upgraded program called Flight Ready P2 that includes parts but no labor. The most common program—Flight Ready P3—covers all parts, labor and AOG maintenance support.

“The majority of HondaJet owners are operating under the P3 level program and paying just over $600/hr. for tip-to-tail airframe, engine and avionics coverage,” O’Keeffe said. “Honda has taken maintenance support to a whole new level and even covers consumables like tires, brakes, and batteries.”
Conceiving The Future

Photo from NBAA 2021
Michimasa Fujino unveils the HondaJet 2600 concept. Credit: Brett Schauf/Aviation Week

Fujino retired in March as Honda Aircraft’s founding president and CEO, but not before unveiling the manufacturer’s latest R&D project—the 2,625 nm-range, 11-place HondaJet 2600—five months earlier at the NBAA BACE conference in Las Vegas. As of this writing, Honda was keeping details of the new “concept,” including an engine choice, close to the vest.

“We have continued to explore and study various aspects and areas for the 2600 program since I have taken on this role,” new President and CEO Hideto Yamasaki told The Weekly of Business Aviation. “We are hoping to share updates by the end of this year.”

BCA welcomes comment and insight from aircraft dealers and brokers for its monthly 20/Twenty pre-owned aircraft market feature. The focus aircraft for September 2022 is the Embraer Legacy 650 and for October 2022 the Dassault Falcon 2000. To participate, contact [email protected]

Bill Carey

Bill covers business aviation and advanced air mobility for Aviation Week Network. A former newspaper reporter, he has also covered the airline industry, military aviation, commercial space and unmanned aircraft systems. He is the author of 'Enter The Drones, The FAA and UAVs in America,' published in 2016.