If compact cars and myriad motorcycles are all that come to mind at the mention of Honda, it’s time to raise your awareness. Honda Aircraft has delivered the very first HondaJet Elite—a premier version of its seven-seat light jet—to a U.S. customer.
The original twin-turbofan HondaJet has sold well, with some 85 delivered since 2015. The unique placement of the engines on pylons sprouting up from the wings and the streamlined, dolphin-like shape of the nose make it instantly recognizable. But the aircraft is also fast, capable, and—for a jet—economical. I was flown in, and then flew, the previous HondaJet HA-420 not long after it was certified. It shone for, among other things, the lightness and quietness of the cabin and, from the pilot’s seat, the sophistication of its integrated flight, navigation, and control systems. The Elite is stronger on both counts.
Changes to the inlets of the Honda/General Electric turbofans have made it less noisy for those lounging in the two-tone leather luxury of the Elite’s cabin. And optional extra protection against mishandling, built into the faster and more capable avionics system, makes it safer when cruising at a top speed of roughly 486 mph. Other improvements for the Elite include shorter takeoff and landing distances and a range increase of 17 percent, which now allows a maximum single-hop distance of 1,437 nautical miles—plenty of distance to get you to your domestic destination in one go or with one refueling.
According to Honda Aircraft chief executive Michimasa Fujino, a global network of dealers provide full service, from selling the $5.25 million Elite to organizing pilot training to providing maintenance. For those who already own one of the original HondaJets, the company announced at NBAA that it will offer a performance package that will bring it more closely to spec with the Elite. Just another example of Honda being helpful.