Honda Aircraft formally delivered the first European-owned HA-420 HondaJet at the Aero Friedrichshafen show – to its German distributor Rheinland Air Service (RAS).

The handover comes just ahead of European Aviation Safety Agency validation for the light business jet, which Honda expects to receive this quarter.

Speaking at a press conference to mark the handover of the $4.5 million aircraft – which secured US approval late last year – company president and chief executive Michimasa Fujino said: “Europe is a very strong market for the HondaJet, representing 20% of the 100-plus orders we have so far.”

Fujino, an Aero debutante, says RAS’s aircraft will be transferred to the German D register following EASA validation. Honda’s two other European distributors, Switzerland’s TAG Aviation and the UK’s Marshall Aerospace, are each scheduled to take delivery of a HondaJet before the end of May.

“They will be used to promote the aircraft throughout their respective sales regions of southern and northern Europe,” Fujino says. “We expect to begin shipping to European customers in 2017, but it could be sooner if there is a cancellation.”

Honda’s production line in Greensboro, North Carolina, is currently building between two and three aircraft per month, Fujino says, with up to 40 units planned for 2016. “We have the capacity to manufacture up to 80 aircraft a year, but we will gradually ramp-up to this number,” he says.

Seven units have been delivered to customers in the USA since the GE Honda Aero Engines HF120-powered HondaJet entered service last December.

Source: Flight International