Features

Published on May 3rd, 2017 | by FII Reader

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Honda – from Motorbikes and Cars to Executive Jets

by Guy Warner

In Japan the desire to seek perfection in miniature is part of the psyche and culture, be it gardens, bonsai trees or haikus. It is no surprise therefore that the President and CEO of the Honda Aircraft Company, Michimasa Fujino, states, ‘Honda proudly brings to you the pinnacle of engineering performance, the HA-420 HondaJet – the world’s most advanced business jet. As the fastest, highest-flying, quietest, most fuel-efficient and most spacious light jet in its class, the HondaJet could be your dream come true.’ He adds that the company’s pedigree is based on building more than 90 million cars and over 300 million motorcycles since 1948. His deep connection with the product goes back to 1997 when, as a designer in Japan, he sketched out the first conceptual plan. The development and production process was not completed until 2015 and 2016 when the HondaJet received FAA and EASA certification respectively. Customer deliveries soon began from the factory at Greensboro, North Carolina.

Capt. Mike Finbow with the HondaJet

Therefore when Woodgate Aviation issued an invitation to attend a viewing of the HondaJet in its modern, spacious and busy hangar at Belfast International Airport, it was only polite to accept! As Honda’s Sales Demonstration pilot, Mike Finbow, informed the invited guests, this was the HondaJet’s first Irish sales tour, being shown to potential customers, charterers and brokers. He proudly claimed, ‘This is truly the next generation of executive jet aircraft, it is a brand-new, clean-sheet design – not the evolution of an older airframe or existing parts cobbled together.’

From the outside the HondaJet does look very sleek, with a sharply contoured nose and ‘golden shark’s teeth’ at the lower edge of the windscreen. These are not for decoration but are part of the heated windshield anti-ice system . The fuselage is of composite construction, while the wing is milled from a single block of aluminium from wingtip to wingtip. The aerofoil design uses natural laminar flow (NLF) technology. The most striking features are the Over-the-Wing Engine Mounts (OTWEM) for the twin Honda Aero/G.E. Engines HF-120 turbofans – engineered and proven by Honda after more than 20 years of extensive research and development. Mike said that the extensive use of lightweight materials, the aerodynamic efficiency of the design and the advanced engine technology, when added together made the HondaJet up to 20% more fuel efficient than other aircraft in its class, owing to the reduced weight and drag. Other advantages were the high cruising speed and swift climb to the service ceiling of 43,000 feet. The design innovations also resulted in lower cabin noise and greater internal capacity for passengers and their baggage. In summary Mike asserts that, ‘The culmination of cutting-edge innovation makes the HondaJet the world’s most advanced light business jet. It climbs and cruises faster, soars higher offers more room and less noise, and uses less fuel.’

The interior of the HondaJet

Inside the cabin there are four club-style seats, with the option of an extra seat facing the boarding door. An interesting touch is that the table for this seat folds out of the integral, door-mounted stairs. It certainly felt very comfortable and spacious for a light business jet. There is a private lavatory and wash basin to the rear. The cabin windows incorporate electric window shades. There is no provision or indeed room for a galley but there is a facility for hot drinks and stowage for snacks. Mike noted that the highly refined and detailed interior design was aimed to give mid-size features in a small jet package. The company had spent a great deal of time studying how a passenger interacts with an aeroplane as regards comfort.

The exterior and cabin are impressive enough but the real show-stopper for me was the cockpit. Here it is actually possible to comprehend what is meant by the concept of ‘less is more’. The absence of knobs, switches, buttons, books and flight bags is striking. Instead there is a Garmin 3000 avionics suite, the first touchscreen-controlled glass cockpit ever designed for a light turbine type. There are three hi-res, 14-inch displays, a pair of touchscreen controllers, below and between, with the autopilot controls and a back-up PFD (primary flight display) above. The twin PFD screens show a simulation of the terrain as a background to the normal display. This is described by the manufacturers as follows, ‘When used as the pilot’s PFD, the wide screen provides more visual area for the simulated 3-D perspective topography of Garmin’s SVT (Synthetic Vision Technology) – as well as enhanced peripheral cues from an extended horizon line. Using the G3000’s terrain alerting database to create a detailed graphical landscape, SVT provides a ‘virtual reality’ perspective view of ground and water features, obstacles and traffic – all shown in relative proximity to the aircraft. Instead of a flat blue-over-brown representation, you’ll see a realistic visual depiction of flight data. So, you can picture what lies beyond the nose of your aircraft, even in solid IFR or night time/marginal VFR conditions.’ The screens can also be split 40:60 to allow another function, for example track and heading, to be displayed side by side with the PFD.

The cockpit displays on the HondaJet

The multi-function display (MFD) in the middle also has split screen capability to allow, for example the weather radar to sit beside engine performance or fuel state displays, or airways charts, approach charts or airfield plans, or traffic alert or TAWS (Terrain Alert and Avoidance System).

Control and input is by means of the 5.7-inch, high-resolution, touchscreen controllers, which have a desktop-style, icon-driven interface built on a ‘shallow’ menu structure, enabling access to more systems and sensors with fewer keystrokes or page sequences. They can also be used to control the audio/intercom system, as well as transponder codes and idents, electronic checklist entries, flight plan entry and editing, plus optional synoptic data and other selected mapping, traffic, weather, entertainment, and custom display options.

Mike states that the aim is to, ‘provide the pilot with as much help as currently possible in a comfortable and ergonomic cockpit that reduces fatigue and lowers the workload.’ He particularly likes the seat and the feel of the controls and with more than 3,500 hours flying including time on aircraft in competition with the HondaJet, he is in a good position to make judgements based on experience.

The Honda Aircraft Company’s aim is to give the best value to customers in terms of cost, efficiency and comfort. The design brief was to build the most perfect aeroplane that the designers and engineer could contrive and not to put it on the market until this was achieved. It is undoubtedly a bold claim and it will be of great interest to see how sales worldwide reflect Honda’s ambition and effort. The base price is $4.84m.

General characteristics

Crew: 1 or 2

Max Passenger Capacity: 4-6

Length: 13.0 m (42.6 ft)

Wingspan: 12.1 m (39.8 ft)

Height: 4.5 m (14.9 ft)

Empty weight: 3,267 kg (7,203 lb)

Max takeoff weight: 4,808 kg (10,600 lb)

Powerplant: 2 × GE Honda HF120 turbofan, 9.1 kN (2,050 lbf) thrust each

Bypass ratio:2.9

Performance

Maximum speed: 782 km/h; 486 mph (422 kts) max cruise

Cruise speed: 682 km/h; 423 mph (368 kts) long range

Range: 2,234 km; 1,388 mi (1,206 nmi)

Service ceiling: 13,000 m (43,000 ft)

Rate of climb: 20 m/s (4,000 ft/min)

Fuel consumption: 0.41 kg/km (1.46 lb/mi)

Take-off distance: 3,934 feet (1,199 m)

Landing distance: 3,047 feet (929 m)

Fuel capacity: 2,850 pounds (1,290 kg)

Cabin altitude: 8,000 feet (2,400 m)

 

Interior dimensions of the HondaJet

The passenger compartment is 5.43 m (17.80 ft) long and has an enclosed lavatory. The semi-round cabin is 3.69 m (12.1 ft) long, 1.52 m (5.00 ft) wide, and 1.46 m (4.80 ft) high.

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