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How a Paper Design Concept Became the Most Successful Small Business Jet in the World

June 14, 2019 | by Sharnoosh Shafie
People think the Honda Business Jet started out as a design on a napkin. In fact, it was scribbled on the back of a calendar.

“I still have my original sketch of our business jet,” says Michimasa Fujino, the aeronautical engineer, inventor, and founding president and CEO of the Honda Aircraft Company. “The idea came to me in the middle of the night. I couldn’t find any paper, so I grabbed a calendar, tore the cover off and drew them on the back cover.”

Seeing the latest HondaJet Elite, with its alluring design and cool, ice blue paint job, rotating on a turntable inside the showroom at Honda Aircraft headquarters in Greensboro, North Carolina, it immediately became evident how one person’s vision can become another’s dream business jet.

Michimasa Fujino's original sketch for the Honda Jet.

Ginny Hamant has a very particular insight into this. As an administrative assistant in Assembly and Test/Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul, she books GE Aviation’s Honda Business Jet for her Leadership team pretty frequently. But she’d never flown on the jet, let alone seen it up close. In early June, she joined three other GE Aviation employees selected for the 100 Flights Employee Recognition program for a day-long trip to North Carolina to visit both the Honda Aircraft HQ and the production facility nearby in Burlington where the GE/Honda HF120 engines are assembled. “I currently book the HondaJet several times a month but never imagined flying on it,” Hamant said. “To actually have this opportunity is incredible.”

The HA-420 HondaJet entered production in 2015. An updated variant, the HondaJet Elite, was introduced in 2018. As of today, 124 HondaJets have been sold to customers and businesses around the world.

It doesn’t hurt that the HondaJet is easy on the eyes. From its dashing aerodynamic design to its unique over-the-wing engine-mount configuration (OTWEM), it has all the bells and whistles. A lot of thought went into the location of the engines—a pair of GE/Honda HF120 turbofans. Fujino purposely designed them to sit over the wing to reduce high frequency noise, enhance cabin quietness and free up interior cabin space, allowing for a more comfortable flying experience.

While the GE/Honda HF120 is the smallest engine in GE’s portfolio, it is the fastest in its class. Its high fan and core pressure ratio provides increased aircraft speed and reduced climb time to higher cruising altitudes. With a low thrust lapse rate, the engine can climb nearly 4,000 feet per minute, reducing time to climb by more than 40 percent.

The HondaJet itself offers the best fuel efficiency in its class. It has a maximum speed of 422 knots (483 mph), can reach maximum cruise altitude of 43,000 feet, and has an extended range of approximately 1,500 miles. The aircraft is type certified by the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). And when it comes to amenities, it is indeed all business. The cabin comes equipped with wi-fi connectivity via Gogo. Have a meeting scheduled? No problem. The HondaJet has a wireless network system implemented to provide in-flight broadband Internet service which provides Gogo Text & Talk.

Administrative Assistant Ginny Hamant and Miguel Camacho, an Electrical Systems Engineer, pose for a selfie in the Honda Jet. Ginny and Miguel were two of the 100 Flights winners on the trip.

Another fun fact: The streamlined nose of the HondaJet was inspired by a pair of Salvatore Ferragamo high heels which Fujino encountered at a duty-free shop while on vacation in Hawaii. “The nose shape is very critical for first impressions,” he says. As he saw it, the Ferragamo shape represented a merger of functionality, ergonomics, aerodynamics and technology.

“The HondaJet provides both the flexibility and practicality in flying that customers really need,” said Terry Ma, an Edison Engineering Development Program (EEDP) student working on the GE9X program as a control engineer and one of the 100 Flights Program attendees. “As a pilot, flying myself in a single engine piston aircraft has a comparable level of flexibility, but lacks practicality. The pilots on the HondaJet were highly skilled and the aircraft was very comfortable and quiet to fly in.”

One of the greatest advantages of the HondaJet is its ability to get to and from various customer sites, all within a day. Brent Kidney, LEAP 1-B Program Business Leader and another 100 Flights Program attendee, noted how impactful it was to see how GE Aviation uses the HondaJet fleet for business purposes. “The ease of traveling by executive jet from facility to facility without having to be impacted by the usual airport issues—traffic, parking, gate issues, security, etc.—is great,” he said.

The four 100 Flights attendees had the pleasure of experiencing this 100 Flights trip alongside Brad Mottier, Vice President and General Manager of Business and General Aviation, and Steve Shaknaitis, President of GE Honda Aero Engines. As GE Aviation commemorates its 100-year anniversary, it’s invigorating for employees to have the opportunity to meet with customers and see our state-of-the-art technology and products first-hand. This is an exciting time for GE’s aviation business as we look back through our history and celebrate the successes and partnerships that have brought us to where we are today.

Reflecting on his day-long experience jetting from Cincinnati to North Carolina and back, M&I Fluid and Electrical Systems Engineer Miguel Camacho put it all in perspective. “The HondaJet was amazing!” he said. “Sharing the experience with the winners, the GE leadership team and our customer was a memory I’ll never forget.”
The 100 Flights Employee Recognition Program was developed as part of GE Aviation’s 100 Year Anniversary. 100 employees were randomly selected to share our history at key sites and shows around the world. They will have the opportunity to see what we do, how we do it, and why we do it, creating an experience that inspires a connection to our Purpose. Employees will see how their work directly impacts our business and the world first-hand while experiencing our rich culture and history.


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GE Aerospace is a world-leading provider of jet and turboprop engines, as well as integrated systems for commercial, military, business and general aviation aircraft.