Inside HondaJet Elite
What do you do when you have built what many consider the best personal business jet? Most people would leave ‘best’ alone but Michimasa Fujino, CEO of the Honda Aircraft Company, and parent company Honda aren’t most people, so instead they improved it and made ‘best’ even better – meet the Honda Elite.
A few weeks ago I received a call from Honda’s corporate communications team asking me if I wanted to fly their latest jewel. A short Delta Airlines flight later I was on my way to Greensboro, North Carolina. The Honda campus, and there is no other way of describing the facility, is a gleaming centre where the aircraft are conceived, manufactured and marketed. The building is bright and airy and every little detail has clearly been obsessed over by very demanding people. In a corporate world mostly devoid of intrepid and passionate advocates, Michimasa Fujino stands as an iconoclast.
Trained as an aeronautical engineer at the University of Tokyo, he must have stood out among his peers at an automotive company. Plucked out of a project designing an electrical control steering system in 1986, he was transplanted halfway across the world to Starkville, Mississippi and put in charge of a nascent aviation project. That was unusual in itself, but what is truly outstanding is that he is still in charge of aviation at Honda.
While range and fuel efficiency have been increased on the Elite, the biggest differences are in the cabin, with a fully enclosed belted lavatory, quieter cabin, new sound system and a galley that comes standard with a coffee brewer.
If an aircraft is, like most ambitious and complex projects, the progeny of a large team of talented people, the HondaJet owes its paternity to Fujino. It was nurtured through sleepless nights and lovingly burped when it stalled, to finally reach maturity. The original HondaJet was a technological tour de force and the Elite, its close cousin, is the family’s smartest kid – the quiet one that ends up making his or her parents proud after graduating Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa from a top university, but only after winning the national crew championship and blowing everyone’s mind in the debate team. The HondaJet is that child. It’s also a pocket rocket.
Let me get the changes from the original HondaJet out of the way. An extra seat has been added for a total of six passengers. Fuel capacity has been increased from 2,845lbs to 2,948lbs. You may not think this is much, but in an aircraft that merely sips fuel it increased the range from 1,223nm to 1,437nm. That is a major improvement and useful load shot up to 3,627lbs from 3,397lbs. Balanced field length at sea level at MTOW on a standard ISA day shrank to 3,491ft from 3,934ft improving safety and increasing the number of small airports the plane can access.