Millions of Americans already drive a Honda. Now a lucky few might soon get to fly in one too.
After successfully completing an hour-long test flight in late December, Honda's first jet airplane prototype is a step closer to shuttling around passengers. To attain certification from the FAA, the aircraft will have to pass an additional structural test and flight test to get the go ahead.
While this is the automaker's first foray into commercial air travel, the HondaJet does introduce some nifty new ideas. By combining cutting-edge materials science with an innovative structural design, the jet can fly about 50 miles per hour faster than comparable jets and still use a fifth less fuel.
The jet is composed of a composite material made up of carbon fiber and resins, which is lighter than what's used in other airplanes and has properties that allow it to be molded into a more aerodynamic shape.
In an interview with Technology Review Magazine, Mark Drela, a professor at MIT explains:
"Composites are key for achieving laminar flow, says Mark Drela, professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT, because they allow for a smoother, more even surface than is possible with riveted sheets of aluminum. And Fujino points out that they're important for creating the precise shapes needed for the design."
The HondaJet's design includes bulges around the nose and wings that allow the air to flow over it more smoothly as the plane cuts through the sky. Honda's engineers also mounted the plane engine on top of the wings to further reduce drag.
In addition to these improvements, the HondaJet is powered by a more fuel efficient engine, the result of a partnership with General Electric.
[To learn more about the HondaJet's technical details click here.]
Surprisingly, the composite materials are rarely ever used by jet manufacturers, although more companies are starting to explore the idea, according to a report in Technology Review magazine.
Honda plans to start production of the HondaJet sometime next year.