June 18, 2004 - The alignment of two large and highly successful companies, General Electric and Honda Motor Company, is ample proof that a new class of general aviation jets is emerging. GE engines power 50 percent of all commercial airline flights, and a version of the Boeing 777 powerplant, the GE90, is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most powerful jet engine.
Honda manufactures two million engines a year for various uses ranging from autos to small auxiliary power units, and Honda-powered cars captured the top seven spots at this year's Indianapolis 500. Earlier this year, the two industrial giants announced an agreement to work together as equal partners in developing and marketing jet engines in the range of 1,000 to 3,500 pounds of thrust.
Honda's first flight of its proof-of-concept CompactJet on December 3, 2003, was the introduction to the Honda HF118, a jet engine that has been in development at the Japanese manufacturer for more than a decade. Out of deference to the 100th anniversary of flight, however, the Japanese company did not announce its first flight until December 18.
GE brings its extensive knowledge of jet engine certification and marketing to the deal. It will also use its expertise to fine-tune the design, particularly in those areas that will assure high utilization rates and reliability. Although the agreement between GE and Honda was announced in February, the two companies have been working together for about two years.
No plans have been announced for development of the HF118 or its derivatives. But increasing interest in a new class of very light jets, either for personal use or for the "sky cab" arena, has not escaped the team. If indeed there is a strong demand for a new dimension in air transportation along the lines of NASA's Small Airplane Transportation System (SATS) - where a network of on-demand transportation providers operate small jet aircraft from general aviation airports - the market for engines such as the HF118 could be large.
Only time will tell just how big either of these markets will be. Considering the slogans of each company, however, an examination of the possibilities seems like a logical endeavor: for GE the phase is, "Imagination at work," and for Honda, "The power to dream." - John W. Olcott