A new report says the business-jet market will grow in the next five years, which could be great news for Honda Aircraft when the Greensboro company’s first HondaJet goes into service. The recent report by Companiesandmarkets.com lists Honda as a “prominent supplier” even though the Federal Aviation Administration hasn’t signed off on the HondaJet’s final certification.
The report, titled “Global Business Jet Market,” says the market for jets should grow by more than 6.8 percent annually between 2015 and 2019, an impressive amount for an industry decimated by the recession and corporate reluctance to use jets during hard times. Honda, which plans to introduce its jets within the next few months, already is making them at its factory at Piedmont Triad International Airport, but the company cannot deliver the $4.5 million jets to customers until they are cleared by the FAA. Still, Honda has said customers have ordered at least 100 jets, so its 1,000 employees will be busy at the company’s site, which also includes research and development and a maintenance and repair center for jet owners. Jet sales suffered when corporate profits sank along with public opinion about companies that still were using their jets. Public sentiment went sour in 2008 when the CEOs of the top U.S. automakers flew in private jets to hearings in Washington where they asked for billions in corporate bailout money. Business-jet sales dropped by half, according to an earlier report released by Smart Research Insights. Now, with low interest rates and corporate demand growing, the market is likely to grow from $20.9 billion in 2013 to $34 billion by 2020.
There are three distinct categories of business jets: light jet, midsize jet and large jet. Honda’s six-seat aircraft includes composite materials, putting it squarely in the light jet category — which is the right place to be for future sales, according to a report released by Markets and Markets in late 2014. “The large jet segment is expected to confront a slight dip in their growth rate,” according to the report. “North America and Europe is expected to contribute to the growing demand in the very light jet segment.” That report and the more recent one from Companiesandmarkets.com both call Honda a key player in the business. “New players such as Honda jet and Comac are expected to cater to the growing demand in the business-jet market,” the Markets and Markets report said. “More cost-efficient products are expected from these new entrants to the market.”
The HondaJet, which the company calls its sports car in the sky, is unique to the industry with its lighter construction and engines mounted above the wings for efficiency and lower drag. Honda has been developing its jets in Greensboro for more than 10 years and reached two milestones this year. On March 27, the company said the FAA had granted “provisional type certification” for the jet, which means it is nearing final certification for delivery to customers. According to a news release, Honda said, “A provisional type certificate is a design approval by the FAA and is common for business jets when final certification is near. Honda Aircraft has demonstrated that the HondaJet is safe for flight and meets the airworthiness standards” outlined in the provisional type certification. And just over a month ago, the company that makes the plane’s jet engines in Burlington also cleared an FAA hurdle.
The agency granted a final permit that allows Honda Aero to make the engines without close supervision and to provide them to Honda Aircraft and, eventually, to other companies. The sister company will make the jets in Burlington and drive them to the Greensboro aircraft manufacturing site. The HondaJet enters the market, according to the recent market analysis, as companies are replacing their old jets. “The replacement of old-generation business jets with new aircraft models is one of the key trends upcoming in this market,” according to the report.