GE Honda Aero Engines has cleared the long-awaited airworthiness milestone for the HF120 turbofan, allowing aircraft maker Honda Aircraft to accelerate efforts to certificate the HA-420 HondaJet and enter operational service next year.
The US Federal Aviation Administration awarded Part 33 certification to the 2,095lb-thrust HF120 programme, according to the joint venture between GE Aviation and HondaJet.
The award follows several years of testing that revealed problems with the original design, especially for how the engine handles ice ingestion. Design changes finally met the FAA’s standards after a testing programme that involved 13 engines and 14,000 cycles on 9,000h of testing.
“This is just the beginning for our team, which has worked tirelessly to demonstrate the technologies in our engine,” says Terry Sharp, president of GE Honda.
The next step for the HondaJet programme is for the manufacturer to receive from the FAA a type inspection authorization, which establishes a baseline of performance to receive airworthiness certification.
HondaJet plans enter service with the first production HA-420 in late-2014, or roughly a year after engine certification.
The HA-420 will compete in the same market segment as the Phenom 100 and the Cessna M2. The entry-level jet market remains severely depressed from pre-2009 levels, before the global economic crash reduced financing options for small businesses and private owners.
HondaJet believes the HA-420 can be competitive by offering a 5% improvement in fuel burn with novel features, including a natural laminar flow airfoil, over-the-wing engine mounts and the unique design of the HF120 engine.
GE Honda designed the HF120 with a front fan blisk and an unusual, reverse-flow combustor with a single-stage, air-blast fuel nozzles.
Assembly of the HF120 has started at a GE facility in Lynn, Massachusetts, but will transition to a joint venture-owned site in Burlington, North Carolina.
HondaJet assembles the HA-420 in nearby Greensboro, North Carolina, inside a cavernous new factory.