After a lengthy 13-year development effort, Honda Aircraft’s HondaJet finally crossed the finishing line on 9 December, when the US Federal Aviation Administration awarded full approval for the light business jet.
This is a major achievement, not least because Honda has become one of only a tiny number of independent ventures to have broken into a segment dominated by Bombardier, Cessna and Embraer.
What sets Honda Aircraft apart from the plethora of doomed start-ups that have gone before it? The answer is the deep pockets of its owner, Honda Motor Company. The Japanese industrial giant is believed to have so far spent around $1.5 billion on its first aircraft programme.
Investment aside, the $4.5 million HondaJet appears impressive. Its unique over-the-wing engines and class-leading cabin have already helped to pull in more than 100 orders. It could well provide an industry shake-up.
Of course, we have been here countless times before. Impressive performance is no guarantee of long-term success. The HondaJet is pitched at a section of the market prone to sharp downturns in response to economic turmoil, and the global financial picture is looking challenging at best.
Credentials in other industries do not necessarily translate to aviation either. But incumbents should not rest on their laurels – just ask the US automotive industry what happened when the Japanese arrived.