HondaJet pilots to be trained at PTI

Honda Aircraft Co. plans to bring pilots from around the world to its Guilford County headquarters to learn how to fly its planes.

A major training company will install one of its motion flight simulators at Honda's Piedmont Triad International Airport headquarters, where all of its planes will be delivered.

Any pilot that wants to become HondaJet certified will have to go through simulator training here.

FlightSafety International, which will build the simulator, is considered one of the best-known in aviation, said Stephen Keeney, a Honda spokesman.

The company has 43 learning centers in North America and Europe, according to its Web site. Keeney said FlightSafety doesn't work with all aircraft manufacturers.

"An airframe manufacturer does not choose FlightSafety," Keeney said. "They choose the manufacturers they want to work with."

Honda said Tuesday that it is on schedule to deliver its first planes in 2010.

Honda says it has orders for more than 100 planes so far and expects more this week at the National Business Aviation Association convention in Atlanta, where it made the announcement.

"It's the one event a year where most manufacturers do the vast majority of their business," Keeney said.

At the convention, Honda showed off a new interior design concept, sort of a luxury minivan in the sky, that features carlike seats and plenty of cup holders.

It's too early to tell how many jet orders might come in this week, Keeney said, but "we're very, very confident that it's going to be another great year."

The planes will be sold in five regional sales centers, and Honda said Tuesday that those centers will feature large, freestanding hangars for servicing the planes.

Current plans are to have buyers come to PTI to pick up their planes. With the addition of pilot certification, that should add a new level of exposure for this region, whose leaders believe the HondaJet project gives the Triad worldwide appeal.

"I don't think we yet know or can even imagine the impact that HondaJet will have on this airport and on this region," said Henry Isaacson, chairman of the Piedmont Triad Airport Authority.

Plans are on schedule.

Honda is working with the Federal Aviation Administration to build an aircraft that conforms to FAA standards and plans to fly the plane in early 2009.

The administration building for Honda's PTI headquarters was topped out last week without walls and should be ready to occupy by spring of 2008, said Mickie Elmore, the airport's director of development.

Keeney said that the HondaJet engine development program with GE is on schedule, as well.

Honda Aircraft's sister company, Honda Aero, will begin making the engines in 2010 near the Burlington-Alamance Regional Airport in Alamance County. It will also make engines for sale to other aircraft companies.

Also Tuesday, Honda announced a possible design change that could make HondaJet the iPod of the "very light jet" world. Imagine your $3.65 million HondaJet in HondaJet Silver Metallic, HondaJet Red, HondaJet Green and HondaJet Yellow.

Contact Richard M. Barron at 373-7371 or dbarron

* The training will include time in a flight simulator to be built at the airport.