After seven years in Burlington, Honda Aero Inc. Wednesday unveiled the first HF 120 Turbofan jet engine to be produced at its plant on Tucker Street Extension.
“To this point we have been preparing; it took time, but now we are here at the starting line to build our business,” said Masahiro Izumi, president and CEO. “As with many other Honda businesses, we start our business small … but step by step we will grow our business big.”
The unveiling comes after 28 years of work, Izumi said. North Carolina — especially Burlington — has been looking forward to this for seven years. Gov. Pat McCrory, the Alamance County state legislative delegation, Burlington Mayor Ronnie Wall, County Commissioner Linda Massey, representatives from Alamance Community College, the chamber of commerce, local business leaders, a big crowd of white-clad Honda Aero employees and media from Burlington to Japan joined the celebration Wednesday morning in the Honda Aero plant.
“It’s hard to start something up and follow through on a vision, and Honda is one of the most visionary companies that’s ever been,” McCrory said. “We don’t take you for granted, we want you to continue to grow, we want you to succeed, we want you to make money, and we’re also so appreciative of you returning your investments back into the community and creating jobs.”
Honda has been working its way into aviation since 1986, and this is its first jet engine ready for market. Honda and General Electric formed a partnership to build jet engines in 2004. In 2007, Honda Aero broke ground on its Burlington facility and has now produced five engines for HondaJet in Greensboro.
Early engine production has been done at GE Aviation’s plant in Lynn, Mass., but the Burlington facility should take over all production by the end of the year, according to a company press release. Honda Aero expects to get its production certification from the Federal Aviation Administration in the spring, company spokesman Eric Mauk said.
THERE WERE A LOT of references to the state’s aviation history — the Wright Brothers’ first flight — and to Honda’s and North Carolina’s entry into the aviation industry.
“Production here at Honda Aero is significant for the business jet industry because Honda is the only company to make both the plane and the engines, and both are built here in North Carolina,” said Yoshiharu Yamamoto, president and CEO of Honda Global Research and Development.
Honda Aero has had a long road through regulation as well.
“In the coming months, when Honda Aero receives production certification from the FAA, it will be the first time in over 20 years for a company to obtain a new engine production certification in the United States,” Izumi said.
Izumi also announced a gift of $50,000 to Alamance Community College, which ACC President Algie Gatewood accepted on the stage. Caroline Rhodes, executive director of the ACC Foundation, said it would go to the foundation for scholarships.
“The Wright Brothers are smiling right now and saying aviation is still the place to go for new innovation and for talent,” McCrory said. “This is the future of North Carolina, and it’s our history, also.”