HondaJet China plans accelerate
Honda has taken its first eight orders for its HondaJet in China. The company’s president Michimasa Fujino made the announcement during the 2018 Asian Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition (ABACE).
Although some people had questioned whether it was too early for Honda to enter China, the orders show a willingness for Chinese buyers to acquire smaller aircraft.
Honda established its China operations late last year in a joint venture with Honsan General Aviation, a Guangzhou-based Honda car dealership. Under the agreement, Honsan will provide sales and support covering China, Hong Kong and Macao.
The company officially opened a facility at Guangzhou Baiyun Airport in February 2018, but in April 2018 announced that it will be expanding its operations there.
Under a new agreement with Yitong Business Aviation Service, a subsidiary of the Guangdong Airport Authority, Honda will expand its operations at the airport with the addition of a new 8,000 square meter facility that will be able house up to 20 HondaJets simultaneously. It is expected open mid-way through 2019, by which time the HondaJet could have received its Chinese type certificate (TC).
The TC was originally applied for in August 2017, with the company saying at the time that it would likely take up to 18 months to receive. Since then the process has speeded up and, Mr Fujino, says the TC could come before the end of 2018.
Once the TC is in hand, Honda will be able to start delivering HondaJets to Chinese clients. Currently there is a single HondaJet operating in Asia, although this is expected to be joined soon by further aircraft.
The HondaJet displayed at the ABACE show was an aircraft that’s based in Thailand. Mr Fujino says that Thailand could be a big market for the aircraft, adding that he also sees potential in other southeast Asian countries, including Singapore and Malaysia.
The market that Fujino would like to see the aircraft in his home country of Japan. Japan, like China, is heavily regulated, and currently the majority of aircraft in the country’s fleet are large-cabin, long-range jets.
The company has signed an agreement with ANA Business Jet, that will allow the Japanese airline to offer onward flights from its key US hubs. Currently the company is aiming to start up operations from Chicago and Los Angeles, with Mr Fujino saying that ANA customers will be able to book flights directly on ANA’s website.
Passengers will then be able to book flights to Chicago or Los Angeles, and then be met at the stairs of the aircraft and whisked across to private-aviation terminals for flights on HondaJet aircraft to their final destination.
It is a market that Mr Fujino thinks will be big and there are already plans to expand the service, once operational, into Europe. The final decision on the European cities in which to base aircraft has yet to be made, however Mr Fujino has mentioned Paris as a possibility.
Before that, the company has its eyes on Hawaii as the next base, saying that the HondaJet is the ‘perfect aircraft’ for island hopping.
To cope with all the new orders, the production rate of the HondaJet is being slowly increased from four to five aircraft a month, although there is capacity at the Greensboro NC facility to increase this.
Nonetheless, Honda is keen not to build too many aircraft and oversaturate the market. By doing this it creates demand, which in turn helps protect the residual value of the aircraft.
In 2017 Honda delivered the most aircraft in the first and last quarters of the year, with 15 and 13 aircraft respectively. Over the full year it saw 43 deliveries, four aircraft more than its competitor, the Citation M2.