To most, Honda is a maker of the everycar — affordable, safe, practical, fuel efficient road transportation that neither excites nor offends. To some, it's also a maker of motorcycles. To a few, it's the maker of Asimo, the perennially entertaining humanoid robot that makes appearances at trade shows.
No one would peg Honda as a maker of futuristic jet aircraft, though.
The Japanese auto giant has been quietly researching small jets since the late 1980s, debuting the HondaJet as a multimillion-dollar experiment over a decade ago in 2003. The six-passenger bullet cruises at 420 knots — about 0.63 Mach — and gets power from a pair of specially designed turbofans developed through a joint venture with General Electric.
What makes the HondaJet really unusual, though (besides the fact that it's being made by the same company that makes the Civic) is a unique engine mount that gives the plane its trademark appearance. Where most jets of this size have engines mounted on either side of the rear of the fuselage, the HondaJet's HF120 turbofans rest on pedestals that rise from the wings. The advantage, Honda notes, is that the configuration frees up significant additional space inside the cabin. As a bonus, it also just looks downright sci-fi.
Honda just announced this week that the first production HondaJet is now in final assembly. The road to this point hasn't been an easy one — the high-tech transport has been beset with delays, most recently due to an engine failure during testing — but the company says it's tracking for FAA certification in the first quarter of 2015.
Start saving your pennies: the aircraft will command around $4.5 million when it goes on sale.
- The cockpit of the aircraft is about as advanced as they come, plastered with Garmin G3000 multifuction displays. (Honda)
- This isn't coach class. (Honda)
- The HondaJet's fuselage is made of composite materials — not aluminum — which is still pretty rare in jet aircraft. (Honda)
- Water ingestion tests help verify that an aircraft and its engines can withstand torrential downpours. (Honda)
- Wing-mounted engines, developed in partnership with GE, give the plane its unusual appearance. (Honda)
- The HondaJet debuted in 2003, but its commercial launch has been pushed back several times. FAA approval is now expected next year. (Honda)
- It's not just the weird engines: a bulbous cockpit also contributes to the plane's offbeat look. (Honda)
- The HondaJet on display at a press conference in 2006. (Honda)
- A prototype HondaJet in flight testing. (Honda)
- Which color would you choose? (Honda)
- There are nine production HondaJets currently in various stages of assembly. (Honda)
- HondaJets will cruise at over 400 knots at an altitude of 30,000 feet. (Honda)
- Another look at the aircraft's wing-mounted engine.