Why Aerion needed a Honda

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There is a strange symmetry about the sad demise of Aerion at the weekend and the launch of the upgraded HondaJet Elite S this week. Although the link may not seem obvious. Aerion was targeting a niche of the ultra-rich and large companies willing to pay $120m for a supersonic aircraft.

Honda (at least so far) has focused on the very light jet market with its new version priced at $5.4m. Aerion (like most manufacturers) was also putting two of the three engines on upside down.

Aerion was formerly launched in 2003. Honda Aircraft Corporation in 2006. But both projects went back a lot further and were led from the start with phenomenal engineering talent. Michimasa Fujino, HondaJet’s CEO, joined the company’s aviation research division in 1984 after working on car electrical steering systems. Dr Richard Tracy, Aerion’s founder and chief technical officer, launched a company called Affordable Supersonic Executive Transport in 1991 and used technology from his PhD. (He was chief engineer for Bill Lear in the 1970s). Both companies partnered with GE Engines – Honda creating a joint venture.

If you ever get a chance to talk with Tracy you should take it: he is one of the most fascinating people in aviation (an industry full of fascinating people). It is an overused term but both he and Fujino are visionaries.

Honda has never revealed how much it has invested in Honda Aircraft – but it must be billions. As a $200bn corporation with a Y660.2bn ($6bn) profit last year, it could do this without needing external investors.

Honda splits its business into four groups for financial reporting: Motorcycles (with a profit last year of Y72.2bn), Automobiles (with a Y37.6bn profit), Finance (with Y106.3bn profit), and one called – Life Creation (power products) and other businesses (Y3bn loss). Honda Aircraft Corporation – the aircraft and engine group – is in the last division and made an operating loss of Y7.8bn ($74m).

Aerion needed a Honda.

The demise of Aerion Corp’s supersonic jet last weekend and the launch this

week of HondaJet’s Elite S share a strange symmetry.

 

 

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