After seven years of work, Honda Aero has passed a significant regulatory hurdle, and on Tuesday got its production certification from the Federal Aviation Administration to produce jet engines in Burlington.
“This is the first time in 23 years for a jet engine manufacturer to obtain FAA production certification,” Masahiko Izumi, president of Honda Aero Inc., said at an announcement ceremony.
“Last night, I counted current existing jet engine manufacturers in U.S. The total is five companies. Today we will be the sixth one,” Izumi told the crowd of Honda Aero employees and reporters at Burlington-Alamance Regional Airport.
Honda Aero in Burlington has been producing HF120 Turbofan Engines since last year, and has shipped eight of them to HondaJet in Greensboro, said Tony Brandewie, vice president of Honda Aero, but until now it has been doing so under GE Honda Aero’s certification and under the supervision of the FAA. The certification means the FAA has approved the quality control and production practices at the Burlington facility.
“We are allowed under our own system to ship the engine,” Brandewie said. “It allows us to control our shipping and our quality.”
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 82,000-square-foot Burlington facility. It now produces the engines and is the official maintenance, repair and overhaul site for the engine, according to a Honda Aero press release.
It has been a long road to get this far, and it will take longer before Honda Aero is a moneymaker.
“Step by step, we would like to grow our business,” Izumi said. “To this end, we will first earn the trust of our customers with high-quality products and services. Then, expanding the scope of our production certification, begin to manufacture parts in-house, cultivate new customers of HF120, and enhance next-generation engine lineups.”
Gregory Benson, manager of the Manufacturing Inspection District Office of the FAA in Atlanta, said many companies want to make parts for jet engines and planes, but it’s now rare for one to start the lengthy approval process to build entire engines or entire planes like HondaJet.
“They just don’t happen as often,” Benson said.
HondaJet could get its production certificate in about a year, said Gib Shelpman, FAA aviation safety inspector over HondaAero and HondaJet.
Shelpman said he has spent a lot of time at Honda Aero in the past seven years. Now he will be back four times a year for quarterly audits.
“This was something that was necessary to get independent,” said Richard Buckingham, manager of quality at Honda Aero. “Working with the FAA was great — they said they were very proud of us — but they wanted this just as bad as we did.”