“All cars run on used parts” was a favorite advertising slogan for many late-20th Century junkyard operators. But the sentiment could just as easily have been applied to airplanes; they all do fly on used wings.
As long as we’re sloganeering, we might just as well paraphrase General Douglas MacArthur, who once said, famously, something like “old airplanes never die, they just fly away …”
Except that some never do fly completely away.
Generally, the ones that hang around year after year, decade after decade, continuing to do their jobs every day in some corner of the globe far off the beaten flight paths, were enormously successful in their prime. Truly exceptional aircraft. Aircraft like the Douglas DC-3, the Boeing 707, even the Cessna 152 and the Stearman bi-plane.
The Eclipse 500 is the exception that proves the rule. An absolute world-class flop in its original incarnation, the 500 production line was shut down and Eclipse liquidated without a single 100 percent FAA-certified example ever being delivered.
But despite the obituaries that appeared in virtually every aviation publication, including this blog, the Eclipse 500, the extraordinarily pretty little twin-engine Very Light Jet that couldn’t, refused to gracefully fly off into the pages of passenger transportation history.
Today, three years after manufacturing of new airframes ceased, more than 250 are in service around the world. But that isn’t the astounding part. What’s astounding about that fleet of 250-plus previously owned airplanes is that the many of them have a few things possessed by none of them when they rolled off the Albuquerque production lines brand new. Major items like full “any skies, any weather” certification in all the countries – including the U.S. – where they operate and state-of-the-art navigation and flight-control systems.
This miraculous makeover was engineered, in case you don’t already know, by Mike Press and Mason Holland, who bought the bankrupt company’s assets for $40 million (half cash/half promissory notes) at a 2009 auction and established Eclipse Aerospace in the former Eclipse plant in Albuquerque.
The story of Eclipse Aerospace’s successful factory refurbing – including enhanced avionics and new GPS-coupled autopilots, flight into known icing certification, upgraded cabin amenities and new exterior paint – of used Eclipse 500s into $2,100,000 Total Eclipse aircraft has been well documented and is no longer news.
What is news, is Sikorsky’s Aircraft’s recent purchase of what both parties to the transaction called a “substantial” minority interest in Eclipse Aerospace.
For one thing, the Eclipse deal represents a very unusual foray into the world of fixed-wing aircraft by the 85-year-old helicopter manufacturer.
For another thing, Sikorsky, a prime military contractor, has, recession notwithstanding, very deep pockets; the company earned $716 million on sales of $6.7 billion in 2010.
For a third thing, Sikorsky’s corporate parent, industrial technology mega-corporation United Technologies Corporation – the 16th largest U.S. manufacturer and the 112th largest company of any type in the world — has ultra-deep (nearly $55 billion in 2010 revenue) pockets.
So what makes an industry giant like Sikorsky/UTC want to buy a “substantial” interest in a small boutique restorer of used iconic aircraft. First, let’s list a few things that had little to nothing to do with UTC’s decision.
1. UTC’s position as a major Eclipse contractor. Yes, UTC’s Pratt & Whitney division’s PW610F engines power the 500. And, for all we know, the conglomerate’s Carrier division built the cabin air conditioning systems for Eclipse.
Since the Total Eclipse transformation package doesn’t include new engines (or air conditioning systems), the total volume of UTC’s sales to Eclipse Aerospace is going to be pretty much limited to engine rebuild kits and the occasional replacement engine for the foreseeable future. Certainly not the kind of volume the 112th largest company in the world would find it necessary to protect with an equity investment.
2. Sikorsky President Jeff Pino’s affection for the Eclipse he owns and flies. Oh, please, we’re talking about a giant, publically traded, multi-national corporation here. CEOs and presidents don’t make major investment decisions at outfits like UTC, directors and the MBAs and accountants they hire as corporate nannies do.
3. The acquisition PR babble about the deal having “immediate impact” (presumably beneficial) on “current Eclipse owners” thanks to Eclipse being able to draw upon Sikorsky’s robust supply chain, parts distribution and engineering resources. Yeah, well, maybe, someday, a current Total Eclipse owner might be able to get a replacement seat cushion or hydraulic boot a day or so quicker thanks to Sikorsky’s box-packing and UPS shipping expertise, but the net benefit for current owners is negligible to insignificant (or vice versa).
There’s really only one possible explanation for this deal and it is this: Eclipse Aerospace, and most especially its CEO, Mason Holland, is totally committed to the proposition that the Total Eclipse is a transitory product. The real – and far from secret – goal has always been to begin production of brand new Eclipse aircraft whenever the time, circumstances, financing and economy were right.
By buying into Eclipse, UTC may very well be saying:
– That it thinks the time will be right in the very near future. Circumstances? Financing? UTC has more than enough muscle, money and savvy to handle those issues. The economy? How long does it take to design, build, prototype, and certify a new VLJ? Three years, four years, five years? UTC employs a lot economists who have clearly reached a consensus that the market will be ripe for a new (just a guesstimate folks) three-point-something million VLJ concurrently with Eclipse having one to deliver.
– That it believes there will be a substantial demand for a mid-priced VLJ, a twin-engine, high-performance aircraft with a sticker roughly halfway between the $2 million-plus Cessna Citation Mustang and Total Eclipse and the $4 million Embraer Phenom 100 and Hondajet.
– That it is at least a little worried that competition from GE Honda Aero Engines may someday challenge Pratt & Whitney’s Very Light Jet and Light Jet engine franchise. Producing new Eclipse aircraft using P&W power plants would increase production runs and lower per-unit engine manufacturing costs.
There is, of course, one other possibility. Eclipse and its new part-owners might decide to beat the development clock by resuming production of new 500s at a fraction of the cost of developing an entirely new aircraft.
If that’s the plan, we could see brand spanking new second-generation Eclipse 500 aircraft taking to the skies as early as next year. The assemblyline and tooling is in place, the aircraft (assuming it doesn’t deviate from the Total Eclipse specs in any significant way) would be pre-certified, and suppliers of major components such as wings and fuselage sections would almost certainly have no reluctance to resume building and shipping parts with Sikorsky/UTC bankrolling much of the effort.
Predicting when, if ever, any or all of these speculations will come to pass, is a job for a psychic, not a blogger. That said, there are several cards that, if played, would be a powerful indicator that Eclipse/Sikorsky/UTC has picked up the Eclipse Resume-Production Starting Gun and is about to pull the trigger.
Those cards? A further investment by which Sikorsky becomes the majority owner of Eclipse or a full merger of Eclipse Aerospace into Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation.
Considering the more than 500 flawless flight hours already logged by the earlier HondaJet prototypes, is December’s maiden flight of the conforming variant really that important?
Does it make a statement that goes beyond “we’re proud to have reached another milestone on the path to certification and production”? Does it, in other words, say anything meaningful that we all haven’t heard before?
You bet it does!
It says an awful lot about Honda as a company.
Remember this, with the HondaJet Honda is doing something no other aircraft manufacturer in this space has even tried: To design, engineer, test, build and bring together at the same place and time an entirely new next-generation airframe and an equally new and advanced VLJ engine purpose-built for that airframe.
True, the twin Honda HF120 turbofans that power the HondaJet are officially products of GE Honda Aero, but the conception, design, and advanced performance/fuel efficiency ratio are all pure Honda (derived from the HF118 turbofans built by Honda prior to establishment of the joint venture with GE.) What GE brings to the party is an awesome ability to manufacture and service what are arguably the best jet engines in every market in which GE chooses to compete.
So while there have been delays and deadline pushbacks along the HondaJet timeline, they have primarily been caused by issues inherent in any attempt to develop two major systems from white paper to fruition in lockstep with each other. The truth is that none of the delays have been caused by either a lack of faith or funding on Honda’s part. To the contrary, Honda has even gone as far as advancing money to subcontractors impacted by the recession to enable them to perform their part of the work on schedule.
To convey the depth of Honda’s commitment to the HondaJet, all you really need to know is that the second conforming prototype is already completed and the third one may be rolling down the taxiway by the time you read this. Not only that, but two other conforming prototypes, one for flight tests and one for structural tests, are also slated to be completed in time to support the certification of the aircraft by mid-2012.
The launch of the first conforming prototype also says a lot about the improving health of the VLJ market. In the five years since the HondaJet first went on sale, the basic list price has escalated almost $1,000,000, from the mid-$3,000,000 range to the mid-$4,000,000 range.Yet the volume of firm advance orders, now totaling more than half-a-billion dollars, continues to grow at a healthy rate.
On another level, the maiden flight says something that may turn out to be of major importance to the air taxi industry. The HondaJet is an expensive aircraft to acquire, but a remarkably economical one to operate. If it meets its design targets of faster cruise speeds, higher altitude operations and 20% more fuel efficiency than competing twin-engine VLJs, it may very well offer return on investment advantages sufficient to cause some operators to reconsider augmenting their fleets with VLJs instead of lower-cost, lower-performance piston-engined aircraft.
There are two other subjects on which the flight of the first conforming HondaJet speaks volumes. The first is the future of passenger aircraft engineering.
Consider for a moment some of the design elements which have gone into the HondaJet. To cite just two, the unique combination of aluminum natural laminar-flow wings mounted above the body to reduce drag and lower perceived noise and an unusually light carbon fiber-and-resin composite fuselage, have resulted in an aircraft in which the sum is not only greater — but much more cost effective — than the parts.
Put simply, the sum of Its 1800-lb fuel-efficient new-generation engines, low-weight, streamlined fuselage and advanced wings enables the nearly 9500 pound maximum takeoff weight (MTF) HondaJet to fly further on less fuel than any other airplane in or near its class.
Since the amount of AvGas carried aloft is a major contributor to any jet’s MTF, range, and performance, the HondaJet’s ability to get from Point A to Point B on less gas enables it to fly faster and higher at less cost than its more heavily fuel-laden competitors.
(Note: Honda has not, to date, revealed the HondaJet’s fuel capacity.)
Will any or all of the advanced mileage-enhancing technologies developed for the HondaJet eventually be adopted by designers of larger business and commercial aircraft? Hard to say. But with many air carriers running flights under-fueled to trim weight and cut operating costs (reducing safety margins in the process), it’s easy to believe that they will.
Which brings us to the final point, what does the launch of Honda’s conforming prototype have to say about the future of business aviation?
Let’s look at two brief laundry lists.
– Passenger/crew capacity: 7
– Total baggage space: 66 cubic feet
– Range: 1611 miles (VFR)
– Cruising Seed: 483mph
– Service Ceiling: 43,000 ft.
– Lavatory: Private and fully enclosed with flushing toilet, washbasin, vanity and coat and magazine storage racks.
– Base Price: $4.5 million (approx.)
– Passenger/crew capacity: 9
– Total baggage space: 65 cubic feet
– Range: 1732 miles (VFR)
– Cruising Seed: 535mph
– Service Ceiling: 51,000 ft.
– Lavatory: Private and fully enclosed with flushing toilet, toilet paper holder, sink with tepid water, lighted vanity mirror, coat rod, belted toilet seat.
– Base Price: $10.2 million (approx.)
The Lear does, of course, have a few things the Honda doesn’t. Such as an optional microwave-equipped galley, an extra $3.8 mil on the sticker price, an additional 10,000 pounds (much of it fuel) that needs to be hoisted aloft and astronomically higher operating costs.
As always, the customers will pay their money and take their choice.
There is, now that we think it, one other thing that the first flight of the HondaJet conforming prototype says. It says, and it says it loud and clear, that Honda, as it did with its first 50cc step-through scooter over half-a-century ago, is once again reshaping — if not exactly reinventing — the wheel.
“We’re a software and logistics company that only happens to be making money flying planes.”
– DayJet founder and CEO Ed Iacobucci as quoted in Fast Company magazine, May 2007 (emphasis added)
Maybe the ego behind that statement — not the economy’s negative effect on the capital market, not the alleged failures of the Eclipse 500 — was the real factor in DayJet’s demise. Maybe that elitist mindset, the arrogance that drives a CEO to boast that his company is “making money flying planes” months before it sells its first seat, was what really killed DayJet.
Or maybe not. Maybe Mr. Iacobucci was correct when he said that DayJet’s failure to obtain an additional $5 million in bridge financing was the reason for the September shutdown and subsequent bankruptcy filing.
Maybe his after-the-fall statement that “during the past year, we have demonstrated, beyond a reasonable doubt, that customers will sign up, purchase and become frequent users of this new service — the DayJet ‘per-seat, on-demand’ model works” was dead accurate.
Or, again, maybe not.
We say “maybe not” because Iacobucci, in a moment of apparent candor, later admitted to Jennifer Harrington of Aviation International News that DayJet had only been selling an average of 15 seats per day after almost a full year in business.
“If we had gotten 30 to 35 tickets a day, we would have been OK,” he told Ms. Harrington.
Hhhmmm. At the time, DayJet owned a fleet of 28 Eclipse 500s with a total of more than 100 passenger seats (had they all been in service at the same time, which they never were) and claimed to serve approximately 45 community airports throughout the Southeast. It also had, according to its bankruptcy petition, about $4 million in liabilities.
According to public records, DayJet raised somewhere in excess of $250,000,000 during its brief lifespan. It was, the company bragged in one press release, “among the best capitalized pre-operational passenger air carriers in U.S. aviation history and the largest in the on-demand sector.”
Could the addition of 20 more fares per day possibly have produced a survivable return on an investment of that magnitude?
Given that a significant portion of that $250,000,000, including more than $500,000 spent on political lobbying, was invested in making sure a majority of humans from Alaska to the Amazon recognized the word “DayJet” what went wrong?
Why were only 15 people a day taking advantage of the opportunity to “Fly On Demand?” Surely there was something more seriously askew than the fact that FAA regulations differentiating air taxi services from scheduled airlines prohibited DayJet from actually flying on demand. Even flying “somewhat on demand” (within a window of a couple of hours) should have produced more daily passengers than 15.
Maybe the real issue, as some observers have speculated, was a basic misunderstanding of the business-to-business nature of the air-taxi market on the part of DayJet’s marketing gurus.
Forgive us a brief digression …
Roughly ten years ago, Panasonic entered the rugged portable computer market with its first Toughbook model. Panasonic Portable Computer Company (P2C2), as it was then called, was a ground-level startup from a company with zero presence in the U.S. computer market.
In launching Toughbook, Panasonic spent somewhere between zero and virtually nothing on advertising. What they did invest in was the most obsessive-compulsive, bloodthirsty, workaholic sales force in the B2B technology jungle.
They hired people who left their homes before dawn every Monday and returned shortly before or after midnight every Saturday. While gone, they spent every day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. pitching enterprise IT managers and chief financial officers and every evening from 6 p.m. til the wee hours drinking with those same executives.
If you knew what to look for you could easily spot them waiting for the airport shuttle the morning after one of those marathon sales days. They were the people with the sharpest clothes, straightest ties and shiniest shoes hanging around the hotel lobby at 6 a.m.
Five years after launch, Panasonic’s total market share was more than 50 percent, its share of the law-enforcement market was over 70 percent and its profit margin topped 30 percent in an industry where an 8 or 9 percent margin was considered excellent.
Today, competing against such well established companies as Dell and General Dynamics, Toughbooks have a high 60-something percent total market share and more than 90 percent of the law-enforcement market.
The point is, P2C2’s managers understood B2B selling. They knew that at the end of the day most corporate buying decisions aren’t about product or even about price. They’re about return on investment and productivity.
Did DayJet understand this? Did its executives realize that the only way to make their airline fly was on the wings of hundreds — and eventually thousands — of business travelers? Were they aware that the subjects of untold thousands of bad corporate jokes — the so-called “bean counters” — could have cared less about the number of $2 million aircraft DayJet had on order (about 1400) or the hoopla and political pontifications that frequently accompanied each DayPort announcement?
Did DayJet devote enough of its $250,000,000 to wooing CFOs, sales and field force supervisors, office managers at law and accountancy firms and other key players charged with decided when, where and how other executives travel?
DayJet — like the rest of the air-taxi industry — had a great B2B story to tell. Changing a two-day trip into a one-day turnaround and a full-day sales call into a half-day visit increases productivity and return on investment in almost direct relationship to the amount of time saved and substantially decreases TCOT (Total Cost of Transportation).
Those are the kind of financial realities virtually guaranteed to warm the heart of any executive faced with initialing hundreds — or even dozens — of monthly travel vouchers. The question is whether DayJet took those facts and ran with them. Ran with them into conference rooms, executive suites, corporate dining rooms, and trade show workshops?
The evidence — the shocking 15-tickets-a-day evidence — indicates that it did not.
It’s development budget was enormous, a sum measured in hundreds of billions, not millions. It was the brainchild of some of the most brilliant aircraft designers ever assembled to work on a single project. It was backed by the unlimited technological and manufacturing resources of many of the world’s largest and prestigious aviation contractors and sub-contractors.
Even with all that, it took over a decade to get it from concept to first flight. Even with all that, it never lived up to its original mission and only became successful after a new role was invented for it. Even with all that, it began “revenue service” years behind schedule and at a per-aircraft acquisition cost 400 percent higher than originally projected.
Oh, yeah, it also took three revisions over eight years (1989-1997) before production models with full capabilities were operational.
You’ve probably guessed what “it” is by now but, in case you haven’t, what we’re talking about here is the B2 Spirit (aka Stealth) Bomber, compared to which the development timeline glitches suffered by the Eclipse 500 are as insignificant as a single grain — or perhaps even half a grain — of sand in the Sahara.
It could be argued that a radar-unfriendly, 336.500-pound nuclear bomber has little in common with the world’s most compact (to date) twin-jet passenger aircraft, but it would be a faulty argument. What the two flying machines have in common is that they are both almost revolutionary restatements of conventional aircraft wisdom and, as such, amply demonstrate the teething pains that have accompanied every major sea change in manned-flight technology.
In some ways, it’s even fair to say that the Eclipse engineers had a tougher row to hoe than the scientists behind the Stealth. The Eclipse 500, for one thing, had to be designed to sell in a competitive market for about $1.5 million per aircraft. The captive market known in demographic terms as “U.S. Taxpayers” has coughed up somewhere north of $2 billion for each B2 delivered to the Air Force.
Then too, the Eclipse has had to meet FAA passenger-carrying requirements and the B2 hasn’t. It may seem silly to say that it’s harder to certify an air-taxi shuttle craft than a super bomber and in some ways it is. But bombers are not expected to safely transport tens of thousands of civilians over millions of air miles for two or three decades. The infamous U2 spy plane, as just one example, is notoriously unstable and difficult to fly and almost certainly would never have been granted FAA Part 135 certification even if someone had figured out a way to stuff a passenger seat somewhere in the fuselage.
With full “operating in known icing conditions” and European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) certification perhaps no more than six weeks away (as of May, 2008), it might be interesting to take a look at some of the major twists and turns on the Eclipse 500 sky map and see if any of them has had a seriously negative effect on the aircraft’s present and future utility.
1. Replacement of Williams International with Pratt & Whitney as engine vendor in late 2002. True, Sam Williams and his company pioneered development of mini-turbofans, but P&W has much more experience building prime movers for high-utilization civilian aircraft. Reasons for the change were hotly debated (Williams blamed it on an overweight airframe, Eclipse on an under-thrusting engine), but the net result was part of the reason the 500 missed its official type certification target date of late 2004 by almost two years.
2. Switching production of Eclipse’s proprietary Avio NG Total Aircraft Integration System from Avidyne to Innovative Solutions & Support in Q1 of 2007. Taking place in the period between FAA type certification and production certification, it is generally believed that this change in vendors did not appreciably delay the 500 program. In announcing the change, however, Eclipse did admit that product delays and other difficulties at Avidyne had previously set their certification schedule back by about six months.
3. Lack of certification to fly into known icing conditions. This issue has definitely been a thorn in the side of early Eclipse 500 adopters in the Northeast and Midwest. Equipped with all the “right stuff” — flexible rubber boots for its control surfaces, an engine nacelle air bleed system and a heated windshield — the main reason for the delay in this certification appears to more a matter of Mother Nature than anything else. The 500 was certified for production in late April 2007, after the winter storm season, and “icing” certification requires testing under both simulated and actual conditions. Tests with man-made “shaped ice” and flight tests in known icing conditions were conducted throughout the past winter and certification was expected sometime in June.
4. Delays in 100 percent implementation and integration of the full avionics suite. This has been the most persistent “delay” issue in the 500’s development cycle and, inarguably, the most understandable given that the goal has been to provide as good — or better — an avionics environment in a $1.5 microjet as that available in a $200 million jumbo jet.
In practical terms, however, the as-yet-pending implementation of such features as GPS capability, full flight management system (FMS), electronic distance measuring (DME), automatic direction finder (ADF), and mode-F transponders didn’t seem to delay the 500’s production certification. Nor are there any reports that it’s negatively impacting current operators in any significant way.
According to Eclipse, installation of dual Garmin GPS 400W WAAS-certified moving-map GPS navigators later this year in production models and early next year as a no-cost upgrade to the existing user fleet should provide the missing FMS pieces, including coupled localized autopilot operation with vertical guidance approach. Pending software updates should shortly close most of the other avionics gaps.
If there’s a moral to this story, it’s this: Good things happen when you do the job right and don’t hesitate to make necessary changes — such as switching engine or avionics vendors — out of concern for possible negative PR fallout or fulminating feedback from industry or financial gadflies.
To this point in its young life, the Eclipse 500 is an unqualified success. The aircraft is meeting or exceeding all its promised speed, altitude, cruising range and fuel efficiency specifications, it is hugely popular with its passengers, owners, and pilots, it’s broken all production records for first-year general aviation jet aircraft and it’s filled Eclipse Aviation’s order book through Q1 2010.
Not bad for an airplane which weighs substantially less than 330,000 pounds and isn’t even invisible to radar.
ALBUQUERQUE, NM - January 08, 2008 - Eclipse Aviation, manufacturer of the world’s first very light jet (VLJ), announced it has produced and certified 104 Eclipse 500s since December 31, 2006. Reaching this milestone makes Eclipse the fastest general aviation jet aircraft manufacturer in history to produce its first 100 airplanes. The VLJ leader completed a total of 103 aircraft in 2007. Previously, the fastest ramp to 100 aircraft was achieved by Cessna, which reached 100 Cessna Citation 550 aircraft after approximately 18 months.
“We’re transforming how jets are built, and how people travel,” said Vern Raburn, Eclipse Aviation president and CEO. “It’s an audacious goal, and one that stretches us every day to go beyond what seems possible. Day-to-day setbacks are inevitable, but the reality is that we have created a new aircraft category and are bringing a new breed of jet to market at a rate never before seen in general aviation.”
HondaAero officially broke ground today on its newcorporate headquarters and state-of-the-art jet engine plant in Burlington,North Carolina, on property located adjacent to the Burlington-Alamance Countyregional airport. Honda Aero also announced that it has successfully run a proof-of-conceptversion of the advanced and efficient GE Honda HF120 turbofan engine, and thatthe engine has exceeded the company’s internal development targets for boththrust performance and specific fuel consumption (SFP) on its first test run.The company is moving toward its goals of engine certification in 2009followed by the start of mass production(1) in late 2010.
“Today, we break new ground for Honda and our effort to enter the businessof aviation,” said Satoshi Toshida, senior managing director of Honda MotorCo., Ltd. “The GE Honda Aero engines built here in North Carolina will powera new class of advanced light jets.”
The all-new, 102,400-square foot Honda Aero facility will consist of36,000 square feet of office space, a 58,400-square foot production plant, andan 8,000-square foot engine test cell. Honda Aero will employ approximately70 associates when the plant reaches its initial annual capacity of 200 GEHonda engines within about one year of production startup. The company isinvesting approximately $27 million for construction of the headquarters andmanufacturing facility, including equipment.
By achieving a higher thrust-to-weight ratio and lower fuel consumption,while minimizing emissions and achieving lower noise than other engines in itsthrust class, the GE Honda HF120 has been chosen to power two of the newestand most advanced products in the “very light jet” market — SpectrumAeronautical’s Freedom, and HondaJet, which will be produced in neighboringGreensboro, North Carolina, by the Honda Aircraft Company, Inc., a separateHonda company.
The HF120 is a higher thrust successor to Honda’s original HF118 prototypeengine, which has accumulated more than 4,000 hours of testing on the groundand in-flight. Honda research on jet engine technology started in 1986, withdevelopment of the HF118 engine beginning in 1999. GE-Honda collaboration onthe HF120 began in early 2005. The first core test of the GE Honda HF120 wasconducted in early 2007, followed by full-engine testing later in the year.
GE Honda Aero Engines is a joint venture between GE Aviation and HondaAero, established in 2004 for the development, certification andcommercialization of jet engines in the 1,000 to 3,500 pounds thrust class.
Honda Aero, Inc. is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Honda Motor Co., Ltd.,the world’s preeminent engine maker, producing more than 26 million enginesannually for a diverse range of products including automobiles, motorcyclesand power equipment products. Founded in Japan in 1948, Honda beganoperations in the U.S. in 1959 with the establishment of American Honda MotorCo., Inc. (http://www.honda.com), Honda’s first overseas subsidiary. Hondabegan U.S. production of motorcycles in 1979 and automobiles in 1982. Hondabegan making power equipment products in Swepsonville, North Carolina in 1984,producing engines and lawnmowers. The company has invested more than$9 billion in its North American operations, with employment of more than35,000 associates, and annual purchases of more than $17.6 billion in partsand materials from suppliers in North America.
Embraer and India’s Invision Projects Pvt. Ltd. have signed a contract for 18 Phenom 100 and two Phenom 300 executive jets. The new order was announced at the 2007 Dubai Air Show, November 11-15 and the total value of the deal, at list price, is US$ 69.4 million, and deliveries will begin in August 2010. This is the largest business jet fleet order in India to date. “We are honored to participate in the start-up of Invision’s branded charter and air taxi operations,” said Luís Carlos Affonso, Embraer Executive Vice President, Executive Jets. “Invision’s revolutionary business model initiative, combined with our innovative jets, will most certainly enjoy great acceptance in India, which we consider to be one of the most promising economies in the world.”
“Our priority was to find an aircraft that safely performs under Indian weather conditions, is luxurious enough to cater to High Networth Individuals (HNI) and top corporate executives, and is designed and built to airline standards for very high utilization,” said Mr. Vinit Phatak, Managing Director of Invision. “We were also looking for a well-established manufacturer that was flexible enough to incorporate in their design the extra safety equipment required by Indian’s Directorate General Civil Aviation (DGCA).”
Mr. Phatak added: “We found a match in the Phenom jets for all our essential parameters. For us, Embraer proved to be not only one of the world’s largest aircraft manufacturers, but also a company willing to take the special steps required to cater to the Indian subcontinent, an area considered to soon be one of the largest markets in the world.”
Honda Aircraft Company, Inc., has announced a series of major advancements to HondaJet design and to the HondaJet sales and service network at the annual National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) convention. The company showcased a completely new interior design concept for the advanced light jet, along with new exterior colour scheme studies, and an animated tour of the exclusive HondaJet sales and service facilities.
Honda Aircraft Company also announced a partnership with Flight Safety International to create a new flight simulator and pilot training programme for HondaJet.
New Interior Concept
HondaJet’s new interior concept was introduced with a special focus on human fit, ergonomic efficiency and safety for the customer. Honda has created a cabin environment befitting the company’s reputation for world-class engineering and attention to detail in the quality of materials, design and construction.
HondaJet’s new cockpit design incorporated learning from extensive study on the human factors of pilots and pays special attention to the layout. The production version of HondaJet will also incorporate an all-glass avionics package developed for HondaJet by Garmin®.
Honda also provided a glimpse into potential additional production colours, with colours on display including a brilliant HondaJet Silver Metallic; a rich HondaJet Red; as well as versions in HondaJet Green and HondaJet Yellow.
“From the beginning, it has been our goal to bring new value to the field of aviation,” said Michimasa Fujino, president & CEO, Honda Aircraft Company. “With a focus on innovation we will continue our efforts to deliver a product of outstanding performance, quality and comfort with the best sales and service operation to exceed customer expectations.”
Exclusive Dealer Network
For the first time, Honda Aircraft Company showed its proposed design specifications for standalone HondaJet sales and service dealer facilities that will be established throughout the United States over the next several years. The facilities will feature a large hangar for service operations and will be designed to provide a new level of customer sales and service support in the light jet class.
New Pilot Training Simulator
As part of its continuing commitment to safety, Honda Aircraft Company announced that it has established a partnership with Flight Safety International (FSI) to conduct a HondaJet pilot training programme, including the development of a Level-D full motion flight simulator for HondaJet. The first simulator will be installed at Honda Aircraft Company’s new headquarters facility in Greensboro, North Carolina. Additional training facilities will be established in the future as HondaJet sales grow.
Update on Type Certification
The company also provided an update on FAA type certification for HondaJet. Working closely with the FAA, Honda Aircraft Company anticipates its first test flight of a conforming model in early 2009, with the overall timetable calling for the on schedule achievement of type certification in 2010.
HondaJet, Honda’s first-ever commercial aircraft, lives up to the company’s reputation for dynamic performance together with superior efficiency, delivering class-topping cruise speed and fuel efficiency, greater luggage capacity and a more spacious cabin with seating for up to eight people, compared to other products in the very light jet (VLJ) class. All major assembly and testing of the prototype HondaJet has been conducted at the company’s existing Greensboro, North Carolina facility, which opened in 2001 as an extension of Honda’s global R&D operations.
In late June, Honda broke ground for a new facility in Greensboro that will replace the company’s existing complex. Phase one of construction will be completed in spring 2008, and will consist of offices, research facilities and an airplane hangar. The HondaJet production facility is currently in the design phase, with construction planned to begin following the completion of the headquarters. The company is on target to begin deliveries of HondaJet to customers in 2010.
Honda Aircraft Company, Inc., is a wholly owned subsidiary of Honda Motor Co., Ltd. Founded in Japan in 1948, Honda began operations in the U.S. in 1959 with the establishment of American Honda Motor Co., Inc., Honda’s first overseas subsidiary.
(DanBricklin.com) Dan Bricklin, inventor of the spreadsheet was recently invited to Eclipse Aviation’s manufacturing plant in Phoenix, Arizona. Dan shot some incredible video of the manufacturing and assembly process for the Eclipse 500. Eclipse is building aircraft similar to the personal computer business (modular design, high volume manufacturing, lots of use of computers) and less like traditional aircraft manufacture (lots of custom assembly, intricate parts, low volume production).
Upon seeing the production facility up close and personal, Dan said “I was pretty blown away seeing their actual production facilities in operation. Dozens of planes were moving through a production line and I saw some literally about to go out the door. The company is entering the phase of moving from creating the design to optimizing the ongoing production.”
Click here to see Dan’s video or play on the video below.
Cessna did it last year, Eclipse has just done it and now Embraer is going to do it - The concept jet - Car companies have been doing it for years. Unveil a concept car at a motor show to create some excitement, grab some headlines and capture some customer feedback. Maybe something like it will make it into the showrooms. Maybe not.
To keep up the momentum behind its move into business aviation, at September’s NBAA bizav show in Atlanta, Embraer will unveil a full-scale mockup of a mid-size jet to fit between its Phenom 300 and Legacy 600. A concept jet, not a real one…yet.
At last year’s NBAA Cessna unveiled a full-scale mockup of its Large Cabin Concept Citation with the express intent of “gathering feedback…to determine if there is a favourable business case”. After outings at EBACE and Paris earlier this year, a launch at this year’s NBAA looks possible.
At July’s Airventure show in August, Eclipse went one better when it flew in the Eclipse Concept Jet, designed and built in just six months. Described as the “ultimate tool for evaluating the emerging single-engine jet marketplace”, the ECJ “is currently not available for sale”, says Eclipse.
Embarer’s plans to unveil the mid-size concept mock-up to NBAA were announced by bizjet boss Luis Carlos Affonso at Brazil’s LABACE show. The company has been studying what to do next for some time, and has made no secret of its plans to fill the gap between the Phenom and the Legacy with one, or maybe two, new jets.
But while a “more aircraft for your money” approach has helped bizjet newbie Embraer carve out a growing slice of the light-jet and large-cabin markets, the company has struggled to find a sure-fire differentiator in the mid-size market, which is defined and dominated by the value-for-money Hawker 800 series.
It will be interesting to see what Embraer thinks it can bring to the middle of the market. It may just be a concept mock-up on display, but NBAA will be no tentative toe in the water. It will be a final validation of the company’s plans.