Just prior to the opening of the 2023 National Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition (NBAA-BACE) in Las Vegas, Honda Aircraft Company revealed “HondaJet Echelon” as the official name for its new light business jet model. The company said that the Echelon name signifies its visionary path for the new jet, in terms of “elevating efficiency to new heights while also delivering premium comfort and convenience.”
The Echelon joins the HondaJet entry-level jet in the Honda Aircraft product line. Honda intends to continue marketing and producing the HondaJet alongside the Echelon. A mock-up of the Echelon has stood alongside the HondaJet Elite II, the latest version of the original HondaJet, at the NBAA show.
The HondaJet Echelon was introduced in 2021 as the HondaJet 2600 Concept. At that time, Honda did not commit to a program launch of the new aircraft, but indicated that it was testing the market in order to evaluate potential demand for such an aircraft. In June 2023, Honda announced plans to commercialize the 2600 Concept, and committed to development of the new aircraft. The company entered into strategic supplier agreements with Aernnova for aerostructures and components, Garmin for G3000 avionics, Spirit AeroSystems for the fuselage, and Williams International for the FJ44-4C engine.
The Echelon, which has the model number HA-480, is designed to allow single-pilot operation. The Echelon and the HondaJet are to have a common type rating, enabling pilots to fly both models.
The Echelon has seating for up to 11 occupants. Typical seating configuration is for one crew and 10 passengers, or two crew and nine passengers. The aircraft’s targeted performance specifications include a maximum cruise speed of 450 knots and an NBAA IFR range with one crew and four passengers of 2,625 nautical miles.
The design of the Echelon incorporates electrification and system automation intended to result in reduced pilot workload through an intuitive, high-technology interface. Honda claims that the Echelon will deliver up to 20 percent better fuel efficiency on typical missions than conventional light jets, and more than 40 percent better than mid-sized jets.
Conceptual design and Preliminary Design Review for the Echelon have been completed, and detailed design and select long-lead fabrication activities are underway. Critical Design Review is targeted for the summer of 2024.
Production of the Echelon is slated to take place at Honda’s Greensboro facility, where the entry-level HondaJet is also built. Honda is investing $55.7 million in the facility to accommodate production of the new aircraft. First flight of the Echelon is planned for 2026, followed by type certification and entry into service in 2028. The Echelon is to be certified through an amendment to the HondaJet’s type certificate.
Larger than the HondaJet, the Echelon fits at the upper end of the light jet segment of the business jet market, almost perhaps in a niche between the light jet and medium jet segments. Its sales competitors include other light jets such as the Cessna CJ4 Gen2, the Embraer Phenom 300E, and the Pilatus PC-24. Cessna’s new Citation Ascend medium jet, an upgraded version of the Cessna XLS Gen2, will also provide some competition.
Honda has received Letters of Intent (LOI) for more than 350 Echelons. Many of the LOIs are from individual owner/operators, including a number of current HondaJet owners. The introduction of the Echelon enables Honda to provide a step-up product for those HondaJet operators whose air travel needs have expanded and might now require a larger and longer-range jet. Other LOIs are from charter outfits and fractional ownership providers. Charter firms and fractionals are likely to constitute a significant portion of the Echelon customer base in the years ahead, as these types of fleet operators look to leverage the aircraft’s mix of transcontinental range, mission flexibility, and cabin comfort.