While we all know Honda makes cars and motorcycles, did you know they also make garden equipment, power generators, and even robots? Apparently they now make planes too, and their first aircraft, the HondaJet, uses 20% less fuel than competitors.
The super-light plane is made from composite materials, a combination of carbon fiber (often used in sports cars) and resin that is found in kit-planes, but not larger craft like the HondaJet. The use of this composite material also allows for a unique shape that reduces drag, increases speed, saves fuel, and makes the plane quieter. It’s a win-win-win-win situation…if you can afford a plane in the first place. The use of these materials jacks the price of automobiles up by tens of thousands of dollars, so I can only imagine how much it adds to the price of an airplane.
With the price of jet fuel though, using 20% less fuel-per-flight could add up to substantial savings over the life of the plane. It also means less of that heavy fuel to lug over long distances, saving even more weight. Jet planes require a lot of jet fuel, and it can add a huge amount of weight. Larger aircraft can carry upwards of 30 tons of fuel for a cross-country flight. The HondaJet doesn’t carry close to that much, but carry less fuel makes the plane even more efficient. Many air travel companies have taken to cutting back on extra fuel to save weight, and thus save on the extra weight. Sure, it saves weight and uses less fuel, but you can’t exactly pull over mid-flight to refuel if you suddenly need to go somewhere else.
So all this fuel efficiency comes at the price of speed, right? Wrong. By mounting the engines on the top of the wing rather than the bottom, the plane produces less drag, allowing for a higher top speed. The HondaJet can fly about 50 mph faster than comparable jets, with a top speed of about 485 mph. Another benefit of this unique design is less noise, making the plane about 20 dB quieter. To the human ear, that would sound about four times quieter than your standard jet. Not too shabby, eh?
The plane has just completed its maiden flight, and goes on sale sometime next year. If Honda can prove this plane to be financially viable, I wouldn’t be surprised to see other companies following suit. Will we all be flying in carbon fiber planes in the future?
Source: Technology Review
Chris DeMorro is a writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to Hemis. You can follow his slow descent into madness at Sublime Burnout.