Behind The Scenes Look At Honda Aircraft

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On Monday, Honda Aircraft lifted the veil of secrecy at its Greensboro, N.C., facility, where the company designed, developed, built and is now flying its very light jet (VLJ), the HondaJet. The company publicly opened its doors for the first time at its Piedmont Triad Airport complex to a group of about 25 journalists to show that the company is not only innovative when it comes to aircraft design -- the HondaJet has unique over-the-wing-mounted GE-Honda turbofans -- but also in how it will sell and service the VLJ. "This small building is filled with very sophisticated technological abilities and big dreams," noted CEO Michimasa Fujino, who is unarguably the father of the HondaJet. According to Fujino, Honda's aircraft program began modestly some 20 years ago, and while that modesty still prevails today the company is well on the path to certify the very light jet.

The HondaJet prototype has been flying for just shy of three years and has logged about 300 hours over nearly 200 flights. On the sales front, the HondaJet backlog stands at more than 100 aircraft, even though first deliveries of the $3.65 million twinjet won't start until 2010. However, Honda Aircraft GM of Sales and Marketing Doug Danuser told AVweb that this count includes only individual orders and that there is significant interest (and probably some orders already placed) from fleet operators, a group that includes fractional and air-taxi operators. Danuser comes from Honda's Acura luxury auto group, and it shows in Honda Aircraft's approach to sales and service. He said that the newly formed aircraft company is adopting an "at the spot" sales and service dealer network comprising 14 dealers in a five U.S. regions, with no customer more than 90 minutes' flying time from any such facility. "This will ensure a more personal relationship with the customer," Fujino pointed out.