The HondaJet made an impressive arrival in Oshkosh after its fly-by yesterday morning, as ground crew cleared a big circle on Aeroshell Square so the jet could taxi into position (most aircraft roll in modestly behind a tug). But the HondaJet kept its GE Honda Aero engines running, turned itself around, and stopped right in the spot where it would spend the day (close to it, anyway). Michimasa Fujino, chief engineer of the one-of-a-kind jet, introduced it to the crowd. He said it has a standard Garmin G1000 panel (though the media weren't offered any looks inside). However, representatives firmly implied the jet exists to showcase its engines -- not the other way around. Honda says it's seeking an innovative airframe manufacturer (perhaps attempting to inspire such innovation through its own jet's design) that can equal that made manifest in its "5,000 hours between scheduled maintenance" engine. Still, since its first flight in December 2003, the six-seater HondaJet has flown over 150 hours, reaching an altitude of 43,000 feet and speed of 393 knots. Fujino said he expects the envelope to expand to reach 420 knots. The aircraft is powered by two 1,700 lb thrust Honda HF118 turbofan engines. The innovative features of the construction include a specially designed natural-laminar-flow wing, an all-composite fuselage structure, and a patented over-the-wing engine-mount configuration. The unique engine positioning allows for aerodynamic improvements while also increasing available space in the cabin for space not consumed by fuselage-intrusive engine mounting structures.
Fujino said the unusual engine mount is really the most innovative part of the design, since it had never been done before. "It was believed that you never put anything above the wing, but I was skeptical of that," he said. The construction creates a 5 percent boost in performance over a conventional configuration, according to Fujino, who added that he had never even touched an airplane during his training in Japan. Airplanes to him were just objects of academic study. "I was shocked to see American people build an airplane in their own garage ... and they even flew it!" he said. He also discovered that Americans have a special passion for aviation, he believes was born from that grass-roots-and-garage approach. "That's why I chose Oshkosh as the most suitable place to introduce the HondaJet," he said.
Test pilot Richard Gritter, who flew the jet in from its base in Greensboro, N.C., said it's a pleasure to fly. "It's in a class by itself," he said. "It's nimble and agile ... like a sports car." The low wing helps make landings easy, he said, and touchdown is generally in the mid-80s. There is nothing tricky about handling it, and any competent pilot who can handle a complex aircraft would have no trouble with it, he said.