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I flew on Honda's new $4.9 million private jet, and it's an absolute game-changer

Benjamin Zhang
Ben Zhang Honda Jet
  • The HondaJet entered production in 2015.
  • The jet has a range of about 1,400 miles with four passengers and can go from Boston to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in less than three hours.
  • I took a ride in the $US4.9 million HondaJet and was impressed by how smooth the flight was and how open the cabin felt.

Honda is known for its engineering excellence. It's also a company willing to take its time to get things right. For example, Honda famously spent a decade perfecting its second-generation NSX supercar, Business Insider's 2016 Car of the Year.

Naturally, we weren't shocked to learn that the company spent 30 years getting its first private jet off the ground. In 1986, Honda's aviation team -- led by a young aeronautical engineer named Michimasa Fujino -- began work on the company's ambitious foray into the aerospace industry. It was one of the final major projects greenlit by Soichiro Honda, the aviation enthusiast who founded the company, before his death in 1991.

In 2006, the Honda Aircraft Corporation was formed, with Fujino as its CEO, to develop, build, and sell the $US4.5 million HondaJet.

"The power of dreams is both the force and the philosophy that guide us at Honda," Fujino wrote on the company's website. "Now, Honda proudly brings you to the pinnacle of engineering performance -- the HondaJet."

He called it "the world's most advanced light business jet."

Recently, Business Insider had the opportunity to take a test flight on board one of Honda's demonstrators at Morristown Airport in New Jersey.

Here's a closer look at our test flight.

A previous version of this story quoted a base price of $US4.5 million. Honda has since updated that figure to $US4.9 million.

We arrived at Morristown Airport on a sunny autumn morning. Sitting on the airport's tarmac, just feet away from President Donald Trump's personal helicopter, was a bright red HondaJet.

Overall, the HondaJet is 43 feet long and 15 feet tall with a 40-foot wingspan. The HondaJet is a small business jet whose rivals include ...

... the Cessna Citation M2 and the Embraer Phenom 100.

The jet is produced at Honda Aircraft's headquarters in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Immediately, you'll notice the HondaJet doesn't look like your run-of-the-mill private jet. Honda is particularly proud of its nose and wing designs that contribute to the plane's performance.

According to Fujino, the nose of the plane was inspired by a pair of Salvatore Ferragamo high heels he encountered at a duty-free shop while on vacation in Hawaii.

And then there are the engines. The General Electric/Honda HF120 turbofan engines are each capable of producing 2,050 pounds of thrust.

And no, it doesn't have VTEC.

VTEC, Honda's world-famous Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control system, is found in many of its car engines. The system, which allows the engine to be fuel-efficient at low RPMs while delivering an extra jolt of power at high RPMs, has become a pop-culture icon among car enthusiasts.

What makes the HondaJet's engines special is where the company decided to mount them.

Instead of on the main fuselage, the HondaJet's engines are on pylons above each wing.

According to Honda, this increases the Honda's cargo capacity while reducing cabin noise by isolating the engines away from the fuselage.

While the cabin is made of a carbon-reinforced plastic composite, the composite fuselage is designed to be lighter and stronger than those with a traditional aluminium construction.

Speaking of cargo, the HondaJet has a 'trunk' in the back ...

... and a 'frunk' in the nose. Together, the cargo compartments can hold 66 cubic feet of stuff.

Time to take a look inside the plane.

Inside, the cabin is 17.8 feet long, 5 feet wide, and 4.8 feet tall. As a result, most adults won't be able to stand up in there.

The HondaJet can seat four passengers comfortably.

However, that number can go up to six if someone sits in the jump seat by the door and someone else sits in the copilot's seat.

That's because the HondaJet is capable of single-pilot operation -- a major selling point for private-jet owners who want to fly themselves around. No need to hire a copilot.

Behind the passenger cabin is a private bathroom with a sink ...

... and a toilet.

There's even a skylight in the bathroom ceiling.

So what is it like to be a passenger on the HondaJet? It's pretty freaking cool.

First, the HondaJet is a bit of a hot rod. Even with four passengers, bags, and camera equipment, the little jet needed less than half of the runway's 6,000 feet to take off. The Honda climbs at 3,990 feet a minute.

While not as quiet and refined as the bigger and more expensive $20 million Embraer Legacy 500 we recently flew in, the $4.9 million HondaJet is peaceful enough to carry on a conversation without the need to raise your voice.

With the large windows, the HondaJet felt open and airy.

The HondaJet's seats feature an innovative floating-ball-joint system that allows it to be infinitely adjustable.

Additionally, the HondaJet is available with WiFi and a touchscreen cabin-control system.

In the cockpit, the HondaJet is equipped with a fully integrated Garmin 3000 avionics suite.

The system features three large 14-inch high-definition touchscreens.

And flight systems are neatly and intuitively organised on smaller secondary touchscreens.

A veteran pilot and HondaJet representative we spoke with claimed that he could teach any novice how to use the plane's flight systems in less than five minutes.

As advanced as the HondaJet may be, some aspects are decidedly old-school. Unlike many next-generation jets, the Honda features a physical control system rather than fly-by-wire technology.

The HondaJet can also cruise at 485 mph at 30,000 feet, but it can go as high as 43,000 feet, meaning it's flying above the weather and most commercial traffic.

According to Honda, its first jet has a range of about 1,400 miles with four passengers. Even with a serious headwind, the HondaJet can do Boston to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in less than three hours. With four passengers, the planes can reach virtually any point on the East Coast and much of the Midwest.

The HondaJet officially entered production in 2015. The company is delivering about a plane a week to customers. But if you want one, you'll have to get in line -- Honda has a backlog that runs into late 2018.