Today Instapundit linked to a report about how the HondaJet recently flew for the first time at its maximum speed of close to 500 mph. Later (or maybe I just missed it the first time around) he added to his posting a link back to a piece he himself wrote a year ago about this airplane. Good, I thought, because I had been wondering why he considered the HondaJet so worthy of his linkage.
Here is why:
The HondaJet is the brainchild of Honda Aircraft president and CEO Michimasa Fujino. Fujino told me that his first job in the United States was in Mississippi, back in the 1980s, and that he found that wherever he traveled by air - even elsewhere in Mississippi - he usually wound up having to change planes in Atlanta. This seemed wasteful of time and fuel, and made travel iffier, since it created the risk of a missed connection. To Fujino, the hub-and-spoke system makes sense for a country like Japan, where Tokyo is at the center of everything, but much less sense for a country as big as the United States, where important places are widely distributed. For this, point-to-point travel is much better.
This is no secret, of course, to the people who travel by private jet now. But private jet travel is very expensive, which is why it is the domain of CEOs, celebrities and the like. The HondaJet represents an effort at changing all of that, by using technology and design to bring costs down and allow private-jet travel at costs that approach commercial ticket prices. (Fully loaded, Fujino says, the cost per seat on the HondaJet should be roughly comparable to a first-class commercial ticket). To keep costs down, the Honda folks have put a lot of thought into ways to make the plane as small and inexpensive as possible, without sacrificing comfort or speed.
I’m intrigued by the way the jet engines are above rather than below the wings. This enables the landing gear to be directly under the engines, which means the wings need to do less structural work. Hanging the airplane from its jets, so to speak, enables everything else to be nearer to the ground, which is convenient in all sorts of ways. Including, I guess, that it makes the landing gear less bulky, because it has to reach down less.
Clearly, billionaires are a big part of the target market. Billionaires may buy more - and more expensive - stuff than the rest of us, but at their own spending level they are presumably just as price sensitive as the rest of us. That they have so much money suggests to me that they have a history of being careful with it. So, I’m guessing lots of them will like this cheaper private jet, and lots of others will reckon this to be the first private jet worth buying.
But Honda are not expecting everyone who flies the HondaJet to be an owner of a HondaJet, or an employee or friend or relative of such an owner. They also anticipate something more like a taxi model of USA air travel to develop.
It all sounds very promising.
It’s sort of the opposite extreme to the A380, the ultimate hub airliner. That is trying to make air travel cheaper by making the biggest planes even bigger. The HondaJet makes air travel cheaper by making the smallest and most convenient planes, that can still go fast and over long distances, cheaper. The HondaJet is, you might say, the Dreamliner, only more so. Or to put it another way, the HondaJet, it is hoped, will do to travel within the USA what others hope the Dreamliner will do for travel worldwide.