Honda Aircraft launched its European sales offensive for the HondaJet business aircraft last week at the EBACE business aviation convention in Geneva and predicts the region will account for over a third of its order tally within five years.

Following in the slipstream of fellow business aircraft manufacturers Bombardier and Piaggio, which have exploited the synergy between Formula I motor racing and high-performance aircraft, the company introduced Honda FI racing driver Jenson Button as European launch customer for its light twinjet.

Marking the company's European show debut at EBACE, Honda Aircraft president Michimasa Fujino said: "The European business aircraft market is so strong and continuing to grow, so it is the right time to launch the aircraft here."

 © Honda Aircraft

Honda Aircraft also revealed three sales and service outlets for the region: TAG Aviation will run HondaJet UK & Northern Europe from its base at Farnborough airport, near London. Rheinland Air will set up a dealership in Frankfurt, Germany covering central Europe, while Aviastec will establish HondaJet Southern Europe in Madrid, Spain.

The company has expanded its partnership with FlightSafety International to provide HondaJet pilot training for all European customers, "although a site has not been selected yet", Fujino says.

He expects the traditional charter and low-cost air taxi market in Europe to account for more 50% of its orders although Honda Aircraft, he says, "will not accept large fleet orders unless each company has a very good business case".

HondaJet customers will typically be moving up from high-performance turboprops and very light jets, Fujino said.

The company has secured over 100 aircraft orders so far, mainly from North American customers. The HondaJet prototype has chalked up around 350h to date and will be joined in the first quarter of next year by the first production conforming aircraft, which is now under construction in Greensboro. The $3.9 million aircraft is scheduled for US certification in the second half of 2010, with European approval expected around three months later. "We don't expect to begin deliveries to our European customers until 2012 as the first aircraft are for our North American owners," Fujino says.

Source: Flight International