In late April, Honda revealed its new airplane model, the HondaJet, to the Japanese public for the first time. The aircraft was built at the Honda Aero facility in Burlington, North Carolina, and is the result of a joint venture with General Electric. The joint R&D project began with an agreement in 2004, the construction of a new facility beginning in 2007, and seven years of work by engineers to design and build the HF 120 Turbofan jet engine.
The new jet engine features higher fuel efficiency, improved thrust-to-weight ratio, low emissions, and is quieter than most engines, resulting in one of the most advanced jet engines on the market. In Japan, regulations have limited the private jet industry, but the HondaJet is already on sale in Europe and the United States and is highly in demand. With prices starting at $4.5 million, Honda Aero has received about 100 orders from its Western retail offices, and hopes deregulation of the industry in Japan will further increase sales.
Honda made its first foray into the aviation industry in 1986, and opened the Burlington facility in 2007. The plant is next to the Burlington-Alamance Regional Airport, and with an initial investment of $27 million, it created about 70 new jobs when it opened. The Burlington facility is only a thirty-minute drive from the Honda Aircraft Company offices in Greensboro, North Carolina.
North Carolina is no stranger to innovation in the aviation industry, being home to not only the first experimental airplane ever built in America in 1873, but also where the Wright brothers achieved flight in the first ever heavier-than-air, powered aircraft in 1903.
Another Japanese company, CBC Americas Corp, announced in April that its headquarters will relocate to Carey, North Carolina, accompanied by the construction of a new distribution facility in Mebane, North Carolina. There are 19,800 people employed by Japanese-majority owned firms in North Carolina, and an additional 17,578 jobs in the state are supported by exports to Japan.
Melissa Newcomb is a Project Assistant at the East-West Center in Washington, D.C.