Honda jets off into a new era

Honda took a giant leap into the aviation market this week with the establishment of a new division in the US to win customers for what will be the company’s first-ever jet engine.

The new subsidiary, Honda Aero Incorporated, has yet to be found a home in the US, the world’s largest aviation market, but it is scheduled to begin operations by the end of this year.

Honda Aero will prepare for commercialisation of the HF118 turbofan jet engine, a programme that represents Honda’s first step into the jet engine business.

The HF118 is designed to be a compact, lightweight, low-emissions engine, and was developed for the Honda Jet experimental business jet, currently undergoing test flights in Greensboro, North Carolina, in the US.

The company used its own computational fluid dynamics software to optimise airflow within the engine and said the simple, high-performance combustion chamber keeps emission levels low enough to meet future requirements that are anticipated for business jets.

On the basis of electronic control technology originally developed for automotive applications, Honda claims to have also created the first ultra-compact full authority digital electronic control (FADEC) system for this class of engine. ‘This provides superior engine operation and reliability without variable mechanisms,’ said a spokesman.

Full-scale flight tests of the engine have been conducted aboard the HondaJet aircraft, since December 2003. The engine has now logged more than 110 hours of flight testing on other manufacturers’ aircraft.

Honda now plans to launch the engine into the light business jet market, a category with an estimated annual market of 150- 200 units, and where further growth is expected in the future.

Honda and General Electric, the world’s largest jet engine manufacturer, signed a preliminary agreement in February this year, to jointly pursue commercialisation of the HF118. Issues such as marketing strategy, business structure and production are still under discussion.

The signing of a final agreement with GE is expected before the end of the year. Honda Aero will be responsible for contract negotiations, procurement and preparations for production.

In a parallel move, Honda announced it is also to open the the Wako Nishi R&D centre in Japan, assigned solely to bringing forward aviation engine technology. The new centre will be used to accelerate the company’s jet engine R&D activities in preparation for the mass production of the HF118.

‘This new centre will consolidate and strengthen the turbofan jet engine development currently done at Wako, and the development of piston aircraft engines currently conducted at the Asaka research and development Centre,’ said the spokesman. In the meantime, Wako will continue its R&D efforts for the HondaJet.

The company’s research efforts for small jet engines and jet aircraft began in 1986. Development of the Honda HF118 engine, began in 1999.

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