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How the HondaJet Works

It shouldn't be a surprise that the world's largest producer of motorcycles and engines would want to build its own jet. See more flight pictures.
Honda Motor Company Ltd. via Getty Images

Honda Motor Co.'s reputation for superior engineering is well known throughout the world. Honda is a leader in the automotive, motorsport, power equipment and racing worlds, but the one category it has been absent from up until a few years ago was aviation.

The founder of Honda, Soichiro Honda, passed away in 1991, but it was always a goal of his to enter the aircraft market. In 1997, the Honda Motor Co. drafted its first sketch of the HondaJet, a lightweight small business jet with an over-the-wing engine design. By 2003, the HondaJet had already taken its maiden flight and just three years after that, Popular Science magazine gave it the "Best of What's New" award. As testing and research increased, Honda built a $120 million research and development facility in North Carolina for testing and production.

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Now, more than 10 years and more than $1 billion after the initial sketch, the HondaJet has been created, but is still not quite ready for commercial production. Setbacks have delayed the jet from an official launch, but that hasn't kept 100 customers from already purchasing the $4.5 million aircraft [source: Ray and Ohnsman].

It shouldn't be a surprise that the world's largest producer of motorcycles and engines would want to build its own plane, especially with its extreme interest in innovation, apparent from its continued investment in one the world's best-known robots, ASIMO.

But what makes the HondaJet so special?

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Takeo Fukui, President and Representative Director of Honda Motor Co., Ltd. stands next to a model of HondaJet at a media conference on Dec. 17, 2003 in Tokyo, Japan.
Takeo Fukui, President and Representative Director of Honda Motor Co., Ltd. stands next to a model of HondaJet at a media conference on Dec. 17, 2003 in Tokyo, Japan.
Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images

In building a new kind of business jet, Honda has implemented designs and technologies that set it apart from other jets. One of the ways the company has done this is through the natural-laminar flow (NLF) design that increases the aerodynamics of a plane. Think of NLF as the length of airflow over a wing's surface. The more length of airflow that a wing has, without interruption from wing materials or construction, the less interference the NLF has and the more aerodynamic a wing can be. The more interference a wing has from materials or design construction the more wavy or rough the surface will be, resulting in a reduction of aerodynamics.

The HondaJet's NLF wing design decreases air drag and is constructed with a minimal amount of parts, which Honda says will reduce manufacturing procedures.

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Another integral part of the HondaJet's design is its all-composite fuselage. While Honda isn't the first to use an all-composite fuselage (the famed Boeing Dreamliner has one as well), the design will reduce manufacturing processes and maximize the fuel efficiency of the HondaJet.

The construction of the composite fuselage also allows for more interior space of the cabin. The HondaJet can transport up to five passengers and two crewmembers in the cabin, and also includes 66 cubic feet of space for luggage. Some of the perks in the cabin include fully adjustable leather seats, power window shades, a private bathroom with a black marble sink and even a drop-down aisle that allows passengers to move more easily within the cabin.

The HondaJet has a range of about 1,400 nautical miles. A nautical mile (nm) is about 1.15 surface miles; New York to Los Angeles is just over 2,100 nm [source: Stratos Jets]. Honda's over-the-wing engines propel the plane up to 489 miles per hour, or about 420 KTAS, which stands for knots true airspeed [source: Honda].

Next, find out what it takes to get the HondaJet off the ground -- Honda's over-the-wing engines.

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The result of 20 years of aviation research, HondaJet innovations include a patented over-the-wing engine-mount configuration, a natural-laminar flow (NLF) wing and fuselage nose and an advanced all-composite fuselage structure.
The result of 20 years of aviation research, HondaJet innovations include a patented over-the-wing engine-mount configuration, a natural-laminar flow (NLF) wing and fuselage nose and an advanced all-composite fuselage structure.
Courtesy of Honda Motor Co.

One of the most impressive engineering feats of the HondaJet is its over-the-wing engine design. While most planes have engines that are attached below the plane's wings, Honda's research team found that an engine mounted on top of the wing would actually decrease the amount of drag compared to traditional rear fuselage engine mount designs. Honda's engine placement also increases the size of the cabin area by removing support structures that are necessary in the traditional design.

Honda's engineering research team determined, through theoretical and real-world testing, the optimal location for an above-the-wing engine that would create a favorable aerodynamic interference and decrease the overall wind drag.

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Yet the location of the engines is only one impressive aspect of the entire project. According to Honda, the engine has a high thrust-to-weight ratio, which allows for an "uncommonly high range and large payload." Each engine weighs less than 400 pounds and consumes less than .70 pounds of fuel per hour per pounds of force (lb/hr/lbf) [source: Honda]. This unit of measurement determines specific fuel consumption for planes. Honda says that its engine is lightweight and fuel-efficient when compared to other engines in its class.

The engine has been created with the help of General Electric and although its engineering specifications make it efficient and unique when compared to other business jets, it has also had some problems along the way.

During some ground engine testing in late 2011, Honda found that the engines created ice that caused some minor damage and loss of thrust. This setback pushed the commercial launch of the aircraft back to 2013. And while this might not sound like a very long delay, remember that the plane was first conceived and sketched back in 1997.

Regardless of the most recent postponement, Honda fully expects its jet to be a leading contender in the growing small jet market.

Looking for more information about the HondaJet? Follow the links on the next page.

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Sources

  • Dodbele, S.S., van Dam, C.P. and Vijgen, P.M.H.W. "Design and Fuselage Shapes for Natural Laminar Flow." March 1986. (Oct. 27, 2011) http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19860014381_1986014381.pdf
  • George Mason University. "Airline Planning Process." (Oct. 27, 2011) http://catsr.ite.gmu.edu/SYST660/Chap6_AirlinePlanning_Workbook.pdf
  • Honda. "All-Composite Fuselage." (Oct. 26, 2011) http://hondajet.honda.com/designinnovations/allcompositefuselage.aspx
  • Honda. "HF120 Turbofan Engine." (Oct. 26, 2011) http://hondajet.honda.com/designinnovations/turbofanengine.aspx
  • Honda. "HondaJet Brochure." (Oct. 26, 2011) http://hondajet.honda.com/pdf/HondaJet_Brochure.pdf
  • Honda. "HondaJet Interactive Timeline." (Oct. 26, 2011) http://hondajet.honda.com/hondajetstory/timeline.aspx
  • Honda. "HondaJet Specifications." (Oct. 26, 2011) http://hondajet.honda.com/specifications/index.aspx
  • Honda. "Natural-Laminar Flow Wing and Nose." (Oct. 26, 2011) http://hondajet.honda.com/designinnovations/naturallaminarflow.aspx
  • Honda. "Over-the-Wing Engine Mount Design." (Oct. 26, 2011) http://hondajet.honda.com/designinnovations/enginemountdesign.aspx
  • Michimasa Fujino and Yuichi Kawamura. "Wave-Drag Characteristics of an Over-the-Wing Nacelle Business Jet Configuration." Journal of Aircraft. November/December 2003. (Oct. 27, 2011) http://hondajet.honda.com/pdf/tech_papers/Journal_of_Aircraft_Vol40_No6_P1177_P1184_Wave_Drag_OTWEM.pdf
  • Ray, Susanna and Ohnsman, Alan. "HondaJet Stalls Again with Engine Delay to 2013 with Engine Redo." Bloomberg.com. Oct. 10, 2011. (Oct. 25, 2011) http://mobile.bloomberg.com/news/2011-10-10/honda-says-hondajet-delivery-delayed-by-about-a-year-to-2013-1-.html
  • Sabatini, Jeff. "Grounded Again: HondaJet delayed for engine redesign." Autoblog.com. Oct. 11, 2011. (Oct 24, 2011) http://www.autoblog.com/2011/10/11/grounded-again-hondajet-delayed-for-engine-redesign/
  • Stratos Jets. "Featured Charter Flight - Private Jet Charter Between New York and Los Angeles." (Oct. 27, 2011) http://www.stratosjets.com/featured-jet-charter/Jet-Charter-Rentals-Between-New-York-and-Los-Angeles

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