If you weren’t concentrating fully during Honda Aircraft’s announcement of its newest Honda Jet Elite variant, you could be forgiven for thinking that the new sound system was designed by Bon Jovi.
Whilst the choice of music used to demonstrate the sound was dubious to say the least, it would be hard to find fault with the new Bongiovi Acoustics system that the Elite variant uses.
Rather than using a traditional speaker set-up, the Bongiovi system has 24 transducers hidden in the plane’s interior panels that are calibrated to over 100 points in the cabin. The result is very much like a surround-sound system.
“The panels themselves are used as part of the speakers. So, we don’t have any ordinary speaker system — the interior itself resonates as an audio system.
This type of technology, although new in business aviation, has been experimented with by phone manufacturers in the past few years. The Xioaomi Mi Mix phone uses piezoelectric technology where, instead of having a speaker, the sound resonates through the ceramic outer case of the phone to create the sound that is delivered through the screen of the phone. Although Xiaomi is the only phone manufacturer currently using this system, Samsung is rumored to be looking at using this technology in one of its upcoming Galaxy flagship devices.
Whilst hopping from city to city with your friends and being able to blast out your favourite tunes at full volume might have its appeal, there are times when a more sedate cabin is called for.
For this, Honda has been working on modern technology to lower the amount of noise in the cabin from the engines. Anybody who has flown on an old DC-9 or MD-80 airliner and sat near the engines will tell you that the noise can be deafening. To avoid this, the HondaJet has its engines mounted above the wings, which already helps reduce the cabin noise level.
But to make these even quieter, Honda has developed a system that it calls ‘Perforated inlet technology.’
The inlet is at the front of the engine and helps funnel air directly into the engine fan blades. Although their design depends largely on the type of aircraft they are attached to, with different inlet sizes they are largely smooth, and slightly curved inwards. Whilst this does not help with the air flow, it does help with the net amount of thrust that the engine produces.
The new inlets on the HondaJet Elite are perforated with small holes, which Honda says are fine-tuned to a specific frequency during normal flight conditions.
Honda Aircraft Company president and CEO Michimasa Fujino says that this has been done to greatly reduce the fan-blade passage noise. The result is that the engine noise heard inside the cabin is much lower than it was before, although the HondaJet already had one of the quietest cabins in its class.
Fujino says that, during a customer survey, the recurring theme that Honda saw was requested for increased range.
“The number-one request was the range. So that is why we concentrated on the range performance of the aircraft and how we could improve on that. We first tried to define the aerodynamics more, thereby trying to super-tune the aircraft’s minimal drag and to reduce its weight. By using new technologies, the aircraft weight is reduced.”
As well as reducing the cabin weight, the HondaJet Elite has auxiliary tanks that help increase the fuel capacity. The result is a 17% increase in range over the original HondaJet.
Although the auxiliary tanks could, in theory, be fitted to the original HondaJet, Fujino says that Honda is currently evaluating the costs needed to completely refit a standard HondaJet up to the standard of a HondaJet Elite, though conceding that retrofitting everything could work out too costly.
“We are evaluating what is the best business case for us as well as for our customers. But, of course, some of the functionality should be available for our current customers, so we are now looking at what package could be the most desirable from the customer’s standpoint.
Some of the HondaJet aircraft currently on the production line are already the Elite variant, with the first aircraft due to be delivered before the end of summer. From that point, the mix will gradually move more towards the Elite.