The Honda HA-420 HondaJet had been featured in two FP articles in as many days, and I wouldn't be surprised if there's more. Reading the comments it's clear people aren't familiar with the competition, which is leading to the HA-420 being put on a bit of a pedestal. I figured I'd take a few minutes to put the HondaJet into perspective and give a breakdown of its competitors, and possibly highlight why it's really honestly not all that special, and probably not the best purchase in its category

So, first of all, what is the HondaJet?

The HondaJet is a light jet from Honda Aircraft Company. It's in the 10,000 lb class of light aircraft. Some people have mistaken it for a VLJ (like the Eclipse 500), but it's not, it's too large and expensive to fit in the VLJ category with the Eclipse 500 and Citation Mustang.

Honda has been working on jets for a long time. They did some research back in the late 80s and early 90s, going so far as to team up with Mississippi State University to build the MH02

The HondaJet first flew in 2003, it was announced for production in 2006, and the first production HondaJet made its first flight this year. That doesn't mean it's ready for delivery, the jet still needs to complete the FAA certification process to become a FAR 23 certified aircraft. I believe Honda anticipates certification soon, at least by the end of the year.

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So what about some specs? To save time, I'm ripping this straight from Wikipedia

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1-2 crew members
  • Capacity: 5 - 6 passengers (useful load 635 kg (1,400 lb))
  • Length: 12.99 m (42 ft 7 in)
  • Wingspan: 12.12 m (39 ft 9 in)
  • Height: 4.54 m (14 ft 11 in)
  • Max takeoff weight: 4,173 kg (9,200 lb)
  • Powerplant: 2 × GE Honda HF120 turbofan engines, 9.12 kN (2,050 lbf) thrust each (Bypass Ratio= 2.9)

Performance

  • Maximum speed: 778 km/h; 483 mph (420 kn) TAS
  • Cruise speed: 778 km/h; 483 mph (420 kn) TAS at FL300[24]
  • Range: 2,185 km (1,358 mi; 1,180 nmi) NBAA IFR (4 occupants)
  • Service ceiling: 13,106 m (42,999 ft)
  • Rate of climb: 20.27 m/s (3,990 ft/min)

How much does it cost? $4.5 million. Not bad, right?

Well, lets look at it's two competitors:

Embraer Phenom 100

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First up we have the last aircraft to be a newcomer to the light jet market, the Embraer Phenom 100. Embraer is a Brazilian aircraft manufacturer well known for their ERJ series of regional jets. If you've flown a regional jet, you've probably flown on an Embraer. Back in the early 2000's Embraer entered the bizjet market with the Legacy 600, a gussied up ERJ-135.

In 2005, Embraer announced they would enter the light jet market with a pair of airplanes, the Phenom 100 and Phenom 300. Those of you with the ability to distinguish numbers would see that the Phenom 100 was announced after the HondaJet had already made its first flight. Unlike the HondaJet though, Embraer didn't take 11 years to produce a single jet, first flight was in July of 2007 with certification awarded in December of 2008. Deliveries started shortly thereafter, with over 300 jets delivered to date.

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So how does it perform? Here's the wikipedia info:

General characteristics

Performance

Avionics

Embraer "Prodigy" Flight Deck 100 (based on Garmin G1000)

Suddenly the HondaJet isn't the standout performer it seems to be. The HondaJet is slightly faster (Mach 0.72 compared to Mach 0.70), ever so slightly larger on the inside. According to Business and Commercial Aviation, a magazine that publishes data on business jets, the Phenom actually flys 1 nm further than the HA-420 with full fuel. How much is the Phenom? $4.161 million. So it's a bit cheaper, ever so slightly smaller and slower, but it's a proven design (in service for 5+ years) from a well respected aviation company. No brainer right? Well, lets not forget who the Phenom 100 really was created to compete with...

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Cessna Citation M2

If Boeing is the name to trust with regards to commercial aviation, Cessna Citation is the name to trust in the light jet world. Cessna has been making Citation's for the last 50 years, with the small CitationJet series of jets dominating the light jet market since their introduction in the early 90s.

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The CJ1 was introduced in 1998, with deliveries beginning in 2000. The design was improved and announced as the CJ1+ at the 2004 NBAA convention, and entered service a year later.

At NBAA 2011, Cessna announced the Citation M2: an upgraded CJ1+ featuring an all new interior, Garmin 3000 avionics, upgraded engines, and the cutest winglets in history.

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In December of last year, the M2 received FAA certification and entered service, joining the more than 6000 existing Citations built over the last 50+ years.

Specs for the M2:

General characteristics

  • Crew: 2 (Single Pilot Certified)
  • Capacity: six passengers
  • Length: 42.58 ft (12.98 m)
  • Wingspan: 46.59 ft (14.20 m)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Williams FJ44-1AP-21 turbofan

Performance

  • Cruising speed: 460 mph; 741 km/h (400 kn)
  • Range: 1,496 mi; 2,408 km (1,300 nmi)
  • Service ceiling: 41,000 ft (12,497 m)

Avionics

  • Garmin G3000 system

Some information is missing here, I'll show the CJ1+ specs to fill some gaps:

General characteristics

Performance

So compared to the Phenom the cabin of the M2 is about the same size, but it can fly quite a bit further at a max fuel range of 1300 nm while slotting in between the HondaJet and Phenom with a max speed of Mach 0.71.

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The M2 is the most expensive of the 3 with a typical equipped prices of $4.655 million, but that price is backed up by Cessna's industry leading service center network (something Honda certainly lacks and Embraer doesn't quite match) and slightly better overall performance.

Hopefully all this puts the HondaJet into perspective. While it's certainly not going to be a bad product by any means, behind the fancy exterior and all it's 'innovations' you really just have another competitor in a market with two well established manufacturers that really doesn't offer all that much greater performance or value. Another thing I'd like to point out is the development time, not to discredit Honda, but comments defending their development cycle are moot when you consider the development time of the clean-sheet Phenom 100 (and 300), and the fact that in the time that Honda has been playing with two airplanes (the MH02 and the HA420), Cessna has certified at least 8 different aircraft.

I wish Honda all the best of luck with their jet, and again I'd like to state that this wasn't meant as a criticism of the HondaJet as much as it was a clarification of where it stands in relation to its competitors. Honda may have an impressive background in the automotive industry, but they are certainly new comers to the aviation business with some seriously tough competition.