The new engine for the HondaJet (left) is barely noticeable on a giant test rig in Pebbles, Ohio. It has an 18-inch fan and generates 2,095 pounds of thrust. Its big brother the GEnx (right) is 104 inches across and produces 66,500 pounds of thrust.
The HondaJet is not quite a flying car. It is Honda’s first foray into the business jet territory. Honda Aircraft, a division of Honda Motor Co., has spent the last decade developing the plane and the first production batch of six jets is already on the assembly line. They combine speed and comfort with efficiency and advanced engineering.
The plane’s propulsion is a perfect example. Most jets come with engines attached to the fuselage or suspended from the wing. But the HondaJet’s twin engines, developed jointly by GE Aviation and Honda, are mounted on top of the wings. “There is nothing else out there that looks like the HondaJet design,” says Terry Sharp, president of the GE Honda Aero Engines joint-venture. “It’s something that we’ve never experienced before.”
The HondaJet’s designer, Michimasa Fujino, told Flight International that typically “to reduce the cost, you have to reduce the size of the aircraft, but then you sacrifice comfort. I wanted to make the aircraft smaller but not sacrifice the cabin.”
Honda needed a small, lightweight and fuel efficient engine that would still deliver sufficient thrust. The new HF120 engine that resulted is a micro marvel with 2,095 pounds of thrust and an 18-inch fan. By comparison, the largest GE jet engine design is for the GE9X, which has a fan diameter of almost 132 inches and projected thrust north of 100,000 pounds.
Honda brought in the original engine design and GE added its jet engine know-how and certification expertise. The engine just completed its FAA certification testing and submitted all certification reports. The company expects to receive the final FAA paperwork, called “type certificate,” before the end of the year and start full production in 2014.
The HF120 represents GE’s return to the business jet space – an industry the company helped create. In the 1960s, GE engineers converted the J85 military jet engine into propulsion for the first Learjet business jets developed by the legendary aircraft designer Bill Lear.
Honda began jet engine development in 1986, the same year it brought the Acura to the U.S. The company had built two small engines before it started working with GE. “They had an engine that was running, but GE knew how to put engines into service,” Sharp says. “Together we’ve redesigned the engine and put it through the FAA tests, which require conditions far and above anything that you see in service.”