TCM deal paves way for car maker to build and service powerplants for light aircraft

Honda Motor is moving forward with studies for a new-generation piston aviation engine as it prepares for flight tests of a light aircraft that it may launch into production.

The Japanese car maker has agreed to launch a feasibility study with Teledyne Continental Motors (TCM) to evaluate potential business opportunities for joint marketing, servicing and manufacturing of piston engines for small aircraft. They will also seek to identify potential launch customers for such engines.

Honda and TCM have been working for two years on the testing of a prototype Honda-designed piston engine at TCM's Mobile, Alabama, facilities.

The companies say Honda has "developed a prototype piston aircraft engine that has the potential for being significantly advanced over currently available engines, in terms of weight, fuel efficiency, power output and emissions".

The feasibility study is expected to take "several months", they say. Honda has already benchtested its piston engine, but declines to provide specifications or its name. The car maker says flight testing "will probably begin after the feasibility study is completed".

Honda has been studying a family of small turbofans for years. In 1996 it benchtested an 1,800lb-thrust (8kN), 220kg (100lb) engine, the HFX-20, equivalent in size to the Williams-Rolls FJ44 turbofan used to power Cessna's Citation CJ1, CJ2 and CJ3 business jets.

While Honda stresses that it has yet to commit formally to entering the aviation market, it is concurrently studying the development of a new light aircraft for the general aviation market.

The company is not releasing details, apart from confirming the aircraft will seat fewer than 10 people and will be powered by its piston engine. 

Rival Japanese car maker Toyota last year began flight testing a proof-of-concept light aircraft built by Scaled Composites. It is also studying the potential market to replace around 200,000 older-general aviation aircraft now flying in the USA, but like Honda has not formally committed to entering the market.

Source: Flight International