The HondaJet is a fixed-wing, retractable landing gear, t-tailed, twin-engined, light business jet with the engines mounted over the wings. It is the first production business jet of the Honda Aircraft Company, a subsidiary of the Honda Motor Company.
I believe the HondaJet brought back innovation to the light jet category. Most manufacturers say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But Honda has the courage and budget to challenge the status quo.
From their VTEC and F1 engines to building bulletproof cars, the Japanese company has now become a big name in the aviation game.
Preceding the HondaJet
In 1986, Honda’s aviation efforts officially began when it built the MH-01 turboprop aircraft in collaboration with Mississippi State University’s Raspet Flight Research Laboratory. The success of the all-composite aircraft led them to design their first-ever light jet, the MH-02.
While designing the MH-02, Honda fell in love with hybrid-composite construction and, most importantly, the extremely unorthodox Over-The-Wing Engine Mount (OTWEM) configuration.
The MH-02 was Honda’s litmus test to see if the aviation department had what it took to design and build its own jet aircraft. Many of the traits we see in the current HondaJet can be found in the 1992 prototype, such as the hybrid-composite construction and, most importantly, the unorthodox Over-The-Wing Engine Mount (OTWEM) configuration.
The completed MH-02 raised many eyebrows and aroused even more curiosity. Having flown only conventional aircraft, I would’ve hesitated to take the controls of such a design. But after successfully completing 170 hours over three years of testing metrics such as performance, stability, maneuverability, and characteristics in various emergency situations.
Honda silenced critics and knew they had a winning design. However, they weren’t satisfied with having a different company’s powerplant on their aircraft and began working with General Electric to build a turbofan of their own.
Design and Development
It would take another three years until the company’s founder and lead designer, Michimasa Fujino, finally put pen to paper and began earnestly designing the HondaJet. Fujino-san began his time at Honda working on cars and approached the HondaJet’s design in a similar manner.
The first defining characteristic of the HondaJet is its over-the-wing mounted engines. However, Fujino-san took this a step further and raised the engines further up using pylons. The design seems like it’s been taken from the USS Enterprise, which pleases my inner Trekkie and is the closest human will get to flying the NCC-1701, for now.
But why did Honda choose this particular configuration? Especially since there has only been one other production example of OTW engines, the failed VFW-Fokker 614. I’d say it’s a two-parter.
The first is the most obvious reason: ground clearance. No small jet can use a low-wing design and squeeze in under-the-wing mounted engines. But Honda strayed away from the paved road and carved out its own path because of the team’s experience and confidence gained from their time with the MH-02.
Every other small low-wing jet manufacturer uses rear-fuselage-mounted engines to solve the issue, but this design robs cabin space to make space for support structures and increases cabin noise. However, Honda’s design wasn’t without issues.
During wind tunnel testing, Honda discovered that a typical over-the-wing-mounted design would interrupt airflow over the wing’s upper surface and increase parasite drag to the point where the high-speed flight was in-efficient.
The workaround was mounting the engines on pylons. The design significantly increases lift and reduces parasite drag because the airflow over the wings is now completely uninterrupted. The pylons also curved backward, which improved the center of gravity and flight performance.
The engines mounted on these pylons are built by Honda and GE Aviation. The small HF120 engines are small and light but powerful, producing 2,050 lbf (9.12 kN). It is based on Honda’s own HF118 but has been optimized to deliver more power and be more sustainable.
The second defining characteristic is the nose of the aircraft. Fujino-san paid particular attention to the nose of the aircraft, “the fuselage nose shape which is very critical to give an impression like the front grille of an automobile,” he said.
The result is a striking nose cone that can be easily identified even among a sea of similar aircraft. The inspiration came in the form of a pair of Salvatore Ferragamo high heels, the shape of which Fujiro-san found beautiful.
A third and less noticeable feature is Honda’s new wings designed for the aircraft. Natural Laminar Flow (NLF) Wings. These wings contribute to the aircraft’s speed and efficiency. The engine placement is critical to the NLF’s success because the airflow, both over and under the wing, isn’t disturbed.
In 2003, the proof-of-concept plane completed its maiden flight and set Honda on the path to dominating the entry-level light jet category.
Production and Success
As much as we love innovation, pilots are risk-averse and want to make sure that a takeoff will be accompanied by a landing. This is the reason Honda was unsure if the plane would sell, even though it was a technical success.
Fujiro-san introduced the aircraft at the 2005 EAA AirVenture Oshkosh Airshow to gauge interest in the product. The high level of interest in the aircraft gave Honda executives the confidence to green-light the production of the aircraft. Deliveries were planned for 2010. However, the aircraft would only be certified by the FAA in mid-2015, with the first delivery in December of the same year.
In 2016, the HondaJet had over 100 pre-orders. Fast forward to 2019, and the HondaJet becomes the world’s best-selling entry-level business aircraft. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, sales for aircraft have been slow, but the numbers continue to improve, and the HondaJet is bound to recover sooner than later.
Since the original HondaJet’s release, now referred to as the classic model, Honda has spawned four variants and has another in the works.
Honda HondaJet Specifications
|HondaJet Elite II
|42.62 ft (12.99 m)
|14.90 ft (4.54 m)
|39.76 ft (12.12 m)
|Length (w/o Baggage)
|17.80 ft (5.43 m)
|5.00 ft (1.52 m)
|4.83 ft (1.47 m)
|Operating Empty Weight
|7,203 lbs (3,267 kg)
|Maximum Take-Off Weight (Max)
|10,600 lbs (4,808 kg)
|10,701 (4,854 kg)
|Maximum Landing Weight (Max)
|10,600 lbs (4,808 kg)
|10,701 (4,854 kg)
|1,547 nm (2,865 km)
|Maximum Cruise Speed
|422 KTAS (782 km/h)
|Long-Range Cruise Speed
|360 KTAS (666 km/h)
|Rate of Climb
|3,990 ft per min (1,216 m per min)
|4,100 ft/min (1,249 m/min)
|Takeoff Distance (SL, ISA, MTOW)
|3,934 ft (1,199 m)
|3,491 ft (1,064 m)
|Landing Distance (SL, ISA, MLW)
|3,050 ft (930 m)
|3,050 ft (930 m)
|Engine Thrust (per Engine)
|Wake Turbulence Category
|1 crew + 6 pax / 2 crew + 5 pax
|Flight and Avionics
|GE Honda HF120
Honda HondaJet Orders and Deliveries
The HondaJet has been the best-selling and most delivered business jet in its class for the fifth consecutive year. The aircraft is one of the only models to see increased deliveries during the lead-up to the 2019 pandemic, delivering 36 units.
In 2020, the deliveries dropped from the previous year’s 36 units to 31. However, the HondaJet once more out-sold its rivals, showing that the best always wins despite unfavorable conditions.
In eight years since its 2015 release, Honda has sold just under 220 models of the HondaJet, while the global fleet has racked up more than 100,000 hours.
Honda HondaJet Performance and Usability
The HondaJet unique design doesn’t come at the cost of performance. It often slightly outperforms or ties to the competition in most metrics.
According to the brochure, the HA-420 HondaJet is capable of:
- Maximum cruise speed of 420 KTS at 30,000 ft
- Service ceiling of 43,000 ft
- Maximum climb rate of 3,990 feet per minute
- Range of 1,180 NM with four occupants and IFR reserves
The HondaJet’s strengths lie purely in how efficient it is. It’s eerily reminiscent of a Honda Civic with Wings. A daily driver that produces low emissions, noise pollution, and great fuel economy but with performance to spare.
The NLF wings reduce drag and increase lift by optimizing airflow over and under the surface because it is thinner and has a different cross-section compared to conventional wings. The composite build also makes the aircraft significantly more rigid, allowing the engines to be mounted on the pylons attached to the wings.
The engine placement makes the cabin bigger because no additional load-bearing structures are needed in the fuselage. It also prevents the typical interference drag experienced with conventional engine mount designs while eliminating vibrations and noise in the cabin.
The noise reduction allowed Honda to reduce the amount of sound-deadening material in the aircraft, making it lighter.
The focus on weight savings continues with the materials used on the aircraft. Like its previous concept aircraft, the HondaJet is made primarily of carbon composites. The material is lighter, more rigid, and can be upcycled, making construction cheaper.
The light body is one of the main reasons the HondaJet is so fuel efficient. Less lift is required to overcome the weight, which reduces the thrust required from the engines to sustain flight at any speed.
What does all this mean to a pilot? That’s a simple answer: smoother, more responsive, and most importantly, predictable handling. The HondaJet will do what you want it to do when you want it to.
I love the design of the HondaJet’s cockpit. The design is focused on ergonomics and simplicity, plus it’s pretty to look at. Pilots are first greeted with the three massive 14-inch high-definition screens and two smaller 5.7-inch touchscreen controllers of the brilliant, industry-leading Garmin G3000 avionics system, equipped with Synthetic Vision.
Spotting traffic during VFR operations shouldn’t be an issue thanks to the HondaJet’s wide-visibility windscreen, which is something I think other manufacturers should incorporate. The aircraft is controlled via a yoke – my personal favorite – instead of a sidestick. The former provides a much better feel for the aircraft behavior, even though it’s artificial due to the fly-by-wire nature of the HondaJet.
The G3000 is rated for sing-pilot operations, and Honda has focused on removing complicated procedures and distractions to allow the pilot to focus on flying. The number of switches on the HondaJet is kept to a minimum, and the aircraft takes care of the rest.
The ease of use of the HondaJet is apparent from the get-go. For example, starting the aircraft requires two just two inputs from the pilot, press the start button and move the thrust levers to idle. The HondaJet will take care of the rest. Monitoring the N1 and N2 levels, fuel flow, or oil temperatures is annoying, especially if I have to do it alone.
The HondaJet even manages its exterior lightning without any input. The taxi lights turn on automatically when the parking brake is disengaged, while the strobe and landing lights turn on once the thrust levers are moved to takeoff. Finally, when in flight below 18,000 ft, the recognition lights stay on and automatically turn off at high altitudes.
Honda HondaJet Operational Costs
One of the selling points of HondaJet is its low operational costs. Staying true to its automotive legacy, Honda has succeeded in producing a highly-cost efficient business jet. As a result, many first-time jet owners and small charter companies.
Yearly operational costs are divided into two categories, fixed costs and variable costs. According to Compare Private Planes, the average annual operating cost for a HondaJet HA-420 that flies 200 hours over the year costs $445,490.
Fixed Costs are independent of the aircraft’s usage and are charged annually. The human element tends to be the most expensive part of fixed costs for any jet operation. In the case of the HA-420, the yearly fixed costs total $223,890
|Annual Expenditure ($)
Most new light jets on the market are now being optimized for single-pilot operations, which is good news for operators. The HondaJet falls into this category and needs only one pilot to fly the aircraft. However, multi-crew operations still tend to be the standard for increased safety and insurance purposes.
Experience on type and in similar operations is highly valued when it comes to hiring a crew. Crews with experience are more risk-averse and tend to have better decision-making skills.
Pilots used to flying in charter operations are also less likely to give in to external or internal pressure to fly in risky conditions, such as landing in hazardous weather just to reach the destination airport.
Experienced pilots are also better at controlling the aircraft and trip planning. The more control a pilot has over the aircraft, the smoother the journey for the passengers. In addition, a pilot who is experienced is more likely to land the aircraft safely in the event of an emergency.
However, experienced crews are not cheap, so the crew’s salary is the most expensive fixed cost at $115,094 per annum.
Crew Training Costs
Over the course of the year, a flight crew has to maintain proficiency and renew medicals and ratings. A well-trained crew could be the factor that keeps you safe in an emergency. So it’s vital that a crew be well-equipped and trained.
The annual cost of training a crew for the HondaJet is $13,917.
Private jets are expensive and don’t spend too much time in the air. Many owners opt to store their aircraft in hangars to protect them from the elements and potential accidents and retain second-hand value. However, renting hangar space can be pretty expensive.
The storage cost often depends on an aircraft’s gross weight or the overall space it occupies, or even a combination of the two is used to calculate the fee. So the larger and heavier the aircraft, the higher the hangar fee.
Hangar fees also depend on the airport’s location and the congestion level. The hangar fees at Chicago O’Hare International Airport (KORD) will be exorbitant compared to those at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (KPHX).
The average cost per annum for renting hangar space for an HA-420 is $18,146.
Jet Management Costs
The usefulness of jet management services is often overlooked. A jet management service manages the aircraft and carries out all the tasks needed to keep the aircraft flight ready. These services are essential if an owner plans to use a plane for charter operations.
A jet management service will plan the route, file the flight plan, source customers and manage the day-to-day operations, including collecting fees and payments for a small portion of the profits or higher fees. It will also ensure the aircraft is stored appropriately at the destination airport.
Most management services have partners that offer discounts on these services, saving the operator money over time, especially regarding fuel purchasing, ground handling, and other necessities.
Keeping the aircraft flight ready means maintaining airworthiness as well. Therefore, a management service will also take care of aircraft maintenance. Most management services are affiliated with service providers and offer discounts on maintenance services. Larger companies might even have their own maintenance departments. They will ensure that the aircraft is always airworthy and organize maintenance efficiently to minimize downtime and maximize profits.
As mentioned, finding an experienced and trustworthy flight crew to operate an airplane is one of the most challenging tasks for any operator. A management service will find a flight crew for an operator and put them through a vetting process to ensure they have the necessary ratings and licenses. In addition, they can also manage crew training so that the flight crew is always current and ready to go.
Other services can include registering the aircraft, sourcing an insurance policy that meets the owner’s requirements, and other odds and ends.
The average cost for a typical jet management service managing a HondaJet is $48,000.
There are two main aircraft insurance types: liability insurance and hull insurance.
The most common and comparatively inexpensive option is liability insurance. It offers coverage for injury, damage, and loss caused by the operation of the aircraft to third parties. These may include passengers, cargo, baggage, and persons on the ground.
Depending on the policy, coverage for persons within the operation might also be provided, but it’s more of an add-on. Liability insurance is required by law, and aircraft without insurance coverage are considered unairworthy.
The second and more expensive type is hull insurance. It covers damage to and loss of the aircraft. The policy will pay for repairs when the aircraft is damaged. However, the owner will be compensated if the aircraft has to be written off. The policy’s amount will depend on a predetermined aircraft valuation, not the market value.
Liability and hull insurance are the most basic and common types of aircraft insurance. But most aircraft involved in charter operations have additional coverages in their policies.
Most charter operators choose to have crew insurance in their policy. Crew insurance is akin to an employee benefits package. It covers injuries, loss of license, travel insurance, and repatriation of remains.
Some charter operations opt for aircraft hull war insurance for aircraft operating high-risk routes. It covers the loss of the aircraft due to war, malicious damage, hijacking, and other damage done by third parties.
While insurance is expensive, the costs can be reduced by lowering the risks. Operating a multi-crew with many hours of experience will significantly reduce the cost of insurance versus a single-pilot with low time. In addition, retrofitting more safety equipment like ACAS, weather radar, and Synthetic Vision on older models will also reduce costs.
The average insurance cost per annum for a HondaJet is $25,733.
Miscellaneous Fixed Costs
These are costs that can occur over the year that don’t change with aircraft usage. It’s estimated that the typical various fixed cost for an HA-420 is $3,000 per annum.
The more hours an aircraft flies, the higher the variable cost. As a result, fuel is the highest variable cost for any aircraft, with maintenance costs close behind. The total variable cost for an HA-420 HondaJet that flies 200 hours per annum is $221,600, with the hourly cost coming to $1,108.
|Annual Expenditure ($)
|Crew, Airport and Handling Fees
The most considerable variable cost associated with any powered aircraft is fuel.
The fuel burn per hour of the HondaJet changes depending on the pressure, temperature, operating altitude, speed, and gross weight, but the estimate is 70 gallons per hour.
Location is also a factor when it comes to fuel costs. If the aircraft is refueled in oil-producing countries, fuel will be cheaper than in Europe, primarily due to the energy crisis.
The current hourly fuel cost for a CL350 is $491, which brings the annual fuel cost at 200 hours to $98,200.
As previously mentioned, to keep an aircraft flying, it has to be airworthy. Airworthiness is maintained by performing periodic inspections and maintenance.
The manufacturer outlines the inspection and maintenance periods that operators must adhere to. Completing timely maintenance also extends the life of the aircraft and prevents component failures and accidents.
An aircraft requires a hundred-hour inspection and annual inspection to be airworthy. Maintenance will be needed if any issues are found during these inspections. Airframe maintenance encompasses all items of the aircraft except the engines. These can include service bulletins, advisory circulars, and preventative maintenance.
A HondaJet that flies 200 hours per annum incurs an airframe maintenance cost of $25,000.
Like the airframe, the engine of an aircraft accumulates wear and tear over time and has to be overhauled. Manufacturers specify a period after which the engine has to be overhauled, referred to as TBO (time before overhaul). Engine overhauls are cost and labor-intensive.
The engine will be pulled off the aircraft, and the outer covering will be removed to thoroughly inspect the scope of the repair/maintenance. The small GE Honda HF120 engines are brilliant for efficiency and have a high time before overhaul. However, it also makes inspections more difficult, increasing downtime and maintenance costs.
The engine overhaul cost per annum for a HondaJet is $48,400.
Airport, Navigation, Handling, and Crew Fees
Landing and navigation fees are charged any time an aircraft lands at an airport and utilizes services.
These fees are charged as a flat rate plus an additional amount based on the aircraft’s weight. For example, the flat fee is $150 plus $50 for every 1,000 lbs (454 kg) of the aircraft’s gross weight. Other handling fees can be services such as de-icing, fluid removal, and supply restocking.
Crew fees are incurred during downtime and overnight stays. The crew has to be provided with housing and food and be paid per diem during their downtime.
It is estimated that these fees add up to $45,000 per annum.
Miscellaneous Variable Cost
These sudden and unplanned costs can occur and are directly proportional to aircraft usage. Compare private planes.com estimates that for an HA-420 flying 200 hours a year, variable miscellaneous expenses should be roughly $10,000.
Honda HondaJet Variants
Three years after the introduction of the original HondaJet, the company decided it was time for an upgrade for the aircraft to stay competitive. In May 2018, it revealed the HondaJet Elite and began deliveries just three months later.
The HondaJet Elite featured better performance, an avionics upgrade, revamped interior, and other minor changes that made it stand out from the original model.
Honda began by refining the aerodynamics of the Elite. The tips of the horizontal stabilizer were extended, and the hinge gaps were smaller. The changes removed the need for the vortex generators on the empennage and reduced parasite drag ever so slightly.
The exterior changes, when paired with the new auxiliary tanks, allowed Honda to add 214 nm (396 km) to the original’s 1,223 nm (2,264 km) range bringing the total range to a respectable 1,437 nm (2,661 km).
The engine inlet has been redesigned to reduce noise using technology developed based on NASA’s research. The new inlet features a perforated aluminum-honeycomb structure which reduces the noise produced by the fan blades.
As a result, Honda removed some soundproofing material within the cabin, making the aircraft lighter. The aircraft’s maximum takeoff weight was increased by 100 lbs (45 kg) when combined with removing the vortex generations and other minor weight savings.
Inside the aircraft, passengers can now experience the optional Bongiovi audio system with speaker-less transducer-based immersive audio. The 24 transducers create a 360 virtual audio experience while weight less than the basic sound system.
The Garmin 3000 avionics suite has been upgraded inside the cockpit with a faster chipset and performance computation options. The autopilot was also upgraded with a host of functions.
In 2018, Honda created the Advanced Performance Modification Group (AMPG), whose mission is to develop upgrades to existing HondaJet models so that owners can consistently squeeze out all the available performance from their aircraft, regardless of when they buy it.
The AMPG package for the HondaJet Classic reduces the takeoff length from 3,934 ft to 3,491 ft while increasing the maximum takeoff weight by 100 lbs and the range by 100 NM (185 km) to 120 NM (222 km).
The avionics suite also received the same upgrades featured in the new Elite model, which included Flight Stream 510 system, upgraded PFD, and other tweaks.
The package costs $250,000 and can be installed at any authorized HondaJet service center.
HondaJet Elite II
The HondaJet Elite is the latest model off the production line and was introduced in October 2022. It features more aerodynamic refinements, larger fuel tanks, and more performance.
The aircraft can now manage a maximum range of 1,547 NM (2,865 km) while increasing MTOW by 200 lbs (91 kg). Despite its added weight, the aircraft is also slightly faster. The avionics suite now features autothrottles and will receive Garmin’s autoland feature in late 2023.
The next logical step for the Honda and its aircraft would be to go bigger. So, in October 2021, the company revealed the HondaJet 2600 Concept at the NBAA Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition.
The aircraft will retain its original configuration while featuring a stretched cabin allowing seating up to 11 passengers. The cabin is now more oval-shaped to increase height and features a larger wingspan.
The 56.7 ft (17.3 m) wingspan allows the HondaJet 2600 to carry more fuel and produce more lift, which increases range to a whopping 2,625 NM (4,862 km), making it the longest-range single-pilot business aircraft. The aircraft is also faster and can fly higher, achieving a cruising speed of 450 kts (830 kmph) and a service ceiling of 47,000 ft (14,000 m).
Honda tested the waters for two years before finally confirming that the concept would be produced in June 2023.
Honda HondaJet Competitors
One Aviation Eclipse 550
One Aviation Eclipse 550 can be considered the “best bang for your buck.” It might not put up competitive numbers compared to the HondaJet, but the cost factor can change how you view it.
A pre-owned Eclipse 550 can be had for between $2 – 3 million, depending on the year of manufacturer and condition. When the aircraft costs nearly 30 % less than the competition, some performance and comfort concessions can be made.
Embraer Phenom 100
The Phenom 100 is Embraer’s entry-level light business jet and had been in production for nearly a decade before the HondaJet made it onto the scene.
During that time, the Phenom garnered much praise for its easy operability and high level of automation. The current iteration of the aircraft is the Phenom 100EV Evolution, released in 2017.
The Embraer Phenom 100 is showing its age and loses out to the HondaJet HA-420 in almost every metric, which is to be expected as the aircraft were released a decade apart.
Embraer had a good hold on the light jet market when it first released the Phenom 100, but a lack of interest in updating and improving the model has made it seem like an afterthought in the company’s line-up recently.
Honda HondaJet Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Question: Why did Honda choose the over-the-wing engine mount configuration?
Answer: Honda chose this particular design to ensure enough ground clearance and maintain a balanced center of gravity and overall drag.
Question: Why did the HondaJet take so long to be built?
Answer: After the initial design work began, it took Honda 30 years to release the HondaJet. Most of the time was spent designing the aircraft and making it the best it could be, but a lack of confidence at the Honda parent company prevented the project from being green-lighted.
Question: Why is it more expensive than its competitors?
Answer: Honda’s choice to charge a premium on the HondaJet’s sticker price might seem like a bad decision when the competition is cheaper. However, the company is aware that customers will be willing to part with more money because the aircraft is so cheap to operate and will save money in the long run, making it worth the higher price tag.
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