Honda conducted the first public test flight of its experimental small jet plane at a Wisconsin air show as the company considers whether...

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Honda conducted the first public test flight of its experimental small jet plane at a Wisconsin air show as the company considers whether to enter the aircraft business.

Japan’s third-largest automaker has no plans now to ask the Federal Aviation Administration to certify the HondaJet for sale to the public, spokesman Yuzuru Matsuno said. The Tokyo company called Thursday’s flight in Oshkosh the first major showing of the plane to aviation enthusiasts and the news media.

Honda began tests of the plane, which carries as many as six people, in December 2003. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association’s AOPA Pilot magazine in its August issue calls the HondaJet “a refined prototype that could easily slip into certification and manufacturing.”

Flying the jet for the public “is pretty significant, but it’s hard to tell whether it means the company is serious about getting into the aviation business or just good marketing,” said Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace consultant at Teal Group, who previously advised Honda on the civil aviation market.

“They have Honda Racing and compete in F-1,” he said. “Honda Aviation would enhance the brand image even more.”

“Aviation has long been a dream for Honda, and the HondaJet is the embodiment of that dream,” Michimasa Fujino, the company’s lead aircraft engineer in the U.S., said yesterday. The jet is being demonstrated at the EAA AirVenture air show, a weeklong event that attracts 700,000 people, Matsuno said.

The HondaJet cruises 10 percent faster, has a cabin that is 30 percent larger, and has a range that is about 40 percent greater on 14 percent less thrust than Textron’s Cessna CJI+, according to AOPA Pilot. The magazine interviewed Fujino.

The plane can cruise at 420 knots at 30,000 feet, and can fly as high as 41,000 feet, according to AOPA Pilot. It has aluminum wings, a fuselage made of composite plastics, and two Honda HF118 turbofan jet engines, mounted above its wings.

Honda formed a joint venture in October with General Electric, called GE Honda Aero Engines, to market the engines used on the HondaJet. The venture, GE Honda Aero Engines, is based in Cincinnati.

The U.S. market for jets that carry four to eight passengers may rise to 200 by 2010 and to 400 by 2015, the companies said when they announced the venture.

The engines for these jets sell for about $300,000 each. The so-called very light jet aircraft are being developed to carry travelers to airports not served by larger commercial planes.

For small jets, competitors such as Textron’s Cessna dominate the market, Aboulafia said. Because of that, Honda, if it decides to build the jet for sale, may have to invest in an owner/operator network, such as an air-taxi service, he said.