Honda Lands Major Aircraft Deal

HondaJet lands its biggest deal yet, proving that its manufacturing and design models are working.

HondaJet, a fledgling player in the aviation field, announced its largest aircraft deal to date at the Singapore Airshow last month. According to Honda, the $80million deal will see 16 HondaJets shipped to France’s Wijet, with the first deliveries expected during the first quarter of this year.

If you haven’t heard of either Honda’s jet operation or Wijet, for that matter, don’t be ashamed. Neither company appears to be a major player in the commercial aviation market. For its part, Honda has limited its aviation ambitions to the “light business jet” class of aircraft, designing a 4- to 6-passenger aircraft (sans crew) that’s relatively inexpensive (at $4.6milliona pop) when compared to other “business luxury” aircraft like a Gulfstream G550 (at $61.6million each).

Other aspects of the HondaJet that have made it desirable among the jet set are its “unconventional” monoplane structure, which features engines mounted atop the wing and a heavily sculpted body that improves cruising fuel efficiency by 20 percent.

As for Wijet, the European firm caters to another class of flyer—those who want to skirt the riffraff at the front of the plane and fly with the select company that only a private aircraft can afford. According to Wijet, the company can transfer passengers between 1,200 airports in Europe and North Africa, and offers a competitive pricing model to get the deal done. That being said, to find out anything about what “competitive” means in the world of private jet rental (or, as Wijet calls itself, an “on-demand airline”), you’ve got to make an international phone call before you can even begin to crack the mystery.

Though the business side of this story does hold some interest, the manufacturing angle of the HondaJet/Wijet deal is the most impressive aspect. Given the sophistication needed to build an airplane, HondaJet says that it will be able to replace Wijet’s current fleet of 15 Cessna aircraft over the next 18 months. In total, HondaJet can mobilize its North Carolina manufacturing facility to produce between 55 and 60 jets annually. For a business that only started in 2003, that’s an impressive figure, and maybe it marks a new day for small aircraft manufacturing.