November 14, 2014 5:39 am JST

Honda preparing to get jet business off the ground

TAKASHI SUGIMOTO, Nikkei staff writer

Honda will build an annual 500 engines at this new North Carolina plant.

BURLINGTON, N.C. -- Honda Motor is actively moving forward with its jet airplane business, which will include selling engines to other aircraft manufacturers.

     The company began mass production Wednesday of engines at a new plant here in the U.S. state of North Carolina, where the assembly space's walls and floor are completely white to make falling parts easy to spot. Skilled workers will assemble 500 engines a year -- enough for 250 planes.

     Honda will be the first in the industry to use a business model that includes sales of engines to other aircraft manufacturers, separate from sales of the planes themselves. Yoshiharu Yamamoto, a senior managing officer and director, said the company wants to land as many orders for engines as for aircraft. In other words, it intends to sell around half of the engines it makes to other manufacturers.

     Honda is entering the market for corporate jets owned by individuals and businesses. The HondaJet will seat seven, including the pilot. While North America now accounts for 60% of demand worldwide, demand is projected to grow in Asia, and the market as a whole is expected to expand at a 5% annual clip.

     Honda is applying engine technology cultivated in its auto business. The HF120 engine, developed with General Electric, offers 10% better fuel economy than products from such rivals as Pratt & Whitney. Automotive technology was put to work in such areas as control of fuel injection.

     The aim is to have the business in the black by 2020 from engine sales alone, says Atsukuni Waragai, a Honda R&D director who oversees engine development.

     The HondaJet is expected to get final certification from the Federal Aviation Administration in the first quarter of 2015, at which point deliveries to customers will begin.

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