ST PAUL, MN — With a quiet whoosh, our HondaJet departs St. Paul Downtown Airport and rapidly climbs into the sky. A loop around the Twin Cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis under clear skies gives a glimpse of an alternative way to get around by air — in the company of three to five others, direct to your destination, with no stops in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, or Denver.
This ride was in conjunction with Honda’s press introduction of the third-generation Honda Insight hybrid, which mounts its now downsized, now lithium-ion battery under the back seat. The HA-420 HondaJet has been the subject of intense interest because of its comparatively low price for a twin-engine jet, around $4.9 million, and its pioneering use of a carbon fiber fuselage in a small jet. It flies up to 1,400 miles non-stop.
Honda is one the world’s most unique companies, with a portfolio of cars ranging from mainstream sedans, crossovers, and pickups, plus Formula 1 and IndyCar racers, plus motorcycles, lawn mowers, jet skis, electric generators, and outboard engines.
The HondaJet dates to design studies in the late 1980s. Prototypes were built in the 1990s to validate the feasibility of using carbon fiber composite instead of aluminum. The plane’s design was sketched out by HondaJet company founder Michimasa Fujino in 1997. A proof-of-concept HondaJet flew in 2003; it was green-lighted for production in 2004. An early HondaJet flew at the 2005 Oshkosh, Wisconsin, airshow, and in 2006 Honda announced the HondaJet would move ahead as a commercial venture.
New aircraft of all sizes face challenges in meeting the initial timelines for development and production, and the HondaJet is no exception. The first HondaJet to conform to FAA regulations flew in 2010 and FAA type certification came in 2015, along with delivery of the first customer plane. As of this month, some 110 HondaJets have been built at Honda’s production facility at Piedmont Triad International Airport in Greensboro, North Carolina. Production is ramping up from 3-4 per month to 6-8 a month, up to 80 planes per year. Piedmont airport is HondaJet’s only manufacturing facility, and the initial deliveries have been to American companies and individuals.
Honda in May received FAA certification for a variant, the HondaJet Elite. Weight was reduced 100 pounds and carrying capacity increased 200 pounds. Additional fuel capacity gives the plane an additional 17 percent more range. First deliveries of the Elite are this fall.
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