...Honda Hums Right Along...

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Ending years of speculation and increasing signs it will enter the business aviation market, Honda Motor Co. Ltd. yesterday formally announced a joint venture with the General Electric Co. to bring the Japan-based manufacturer's turbofan engine to market. Dubbed GE Honda Aero Engines LLC, the company was formed to pursue "the launch of Honda's HF118 turbofan engine in the light business jet market," according to a press release. The agreement creating the company was signed yesterday at the NBAA convention in Las Vegas after announcing a "strategic alliance" last February. According to the press release, GE Honda Aero Engines is "fully engaged" in discussions with airframe manufacturers as potential launch customers, in engine certification, and in establishing a manufacturing infrastructure. The company's first product, the HF118, is designed in the 1,600-pound-thrust class but plans include extending the new company's market to engines with thrust ratings from 1,000 to 3,500 pounds. The new company is clearly targeting the light-light jet -- or "very light jet," VLJ -- segment popularized by Eclipse and Adam Aircraft, noting the "considerable opportunity for a highly reliable and durable jet engine" to power such aircraft. The company envisions a market of at least 200 business VLJs annually operated by businesses, fractional owners and air taxis. To date, the HF118 has run more than 2,400 hours in ground tests and more than 450 hours in flight tests. No airframe manufacturer has decided to install the engine, however.