Tuesday, October 19, 2021

GOOD BET ON THE HONDAJET

by Bikram Vohra

If I had $5 million, I would do this. Get one of these gorgeous babies in exciting visual affirmation of my worth.

Because it makes sense.

The uptick in business jet travel sparked by the grounding of 70% of the global commercial fleet and the painful comeback road was tangible, but it is not a trend yet. Two factors are working against its proliferation as a sound alternative. Both are obvious. In the first instance, corporate travel budgets have been slashed, and companies are chary about sending senior executives into the frightening unknown form where they could not only contract Covid but also bring it back with them. This, in itself, is an intimidating factor. By much the same token, the advent of ‘work from home’ has had an impact on mobility, and though that option is likely to lose its lustre in the long run because it can never have the same impact as ‘going to work’ the novelty is still to wear off. Until then, it does act as a negative factor to corporate travel as bottom lines stay skinny.

In this turmoil, what with 6000 aircraft grounded and airlines keeling over through decay, why would a manufacturer attempt to create an advanced model of a relatively new aircraft and offer it to a stagnant market?

Hondajet has just done that with its Elite S model, an eight-seater that will now fly further and with more payload than the bestselling original that hit the bizzjet light jet segment in 2018. Another 200 pounds and 120 nautical miles more.

Moreover, it has scored. At $5 million, it even comes with an enclosed toilet, a requisite that can make all the difference to a long-distance flight in a matter of comfort. 

From the Hondajet point of view, this is not a gamble, and the two aircraft family with their bright-eyed livery (you can even get a camouflage motif) could well be the most viable alternative to commercial flying. They need short runways, have adequate payload capacity, and eight is a very appropriate number for either private or executive flights. The Elite exemplify the very light jet category and others are sure to pick up the thread. 

While private bookings for private flights doubled in the past few months whether, for the dispatch of stranded hundreds or the escape to safer climes for the wealthy, these are now slowing down. As corporate realise that the need for a one-on-one is still mandated and often obligatory to do business, the post-Covid ongoing era will have bean counters finding merit in these light twinjets. In addition, with every nation having its own Covid protection policy in a situation that has no predictable end, bizzjets clearance might well be the best travel choice for quite some time.

India is the perfect market for Hondajet. With 140-dollar billionaires and as many as 758,000 registered millionaires, the market for maturing this aviation segment is massive. India has 464 airfields, and an aircraft like the Elite can literally land and take off from improvised strips. Another 200 is for the asking. That is an incredible network for India’s favourite phrase, air dashing.

These young entrepreneurs are very time and output conscious, and their numbers are increasing exponentially. A million millionaires by 2030 is pretty much on the cards. While online functioning has matured in recent months, the hands-on dimension is vital. This well-heeled population wants to be on the move without the hassles of airport commercial travel and dependence on scheduled flights. When you factor in hotel costs, it is pretty much on the cards that the $5 million investment to carry the team in what is still an office in the sky with the necessary privacy makes sense.

Today there are 46 ‘million’ plus population cities in the country. Each of them is an industrial and manufacturing hub. Small towns from the last century are now cities. Big cities have turned into metros. Places once were train stations like Varanasi, Jhansi, Kanpur, Jamshedpur, Nagpur, Lucknow, Hyderabad, Patna, Jabalpur, Amritsar are, for example, prime destinations.

This Indian millionaire is a Hondajet target. That old mind-set in India of virtue being equivalent to ascetism and denial and anything flashy being seen as extravagant is melting swiftly. The need of the hour is to wing on the cutting edge of technology, and that includes flying, from luxury to necessity. 

The latest version has been fitted with multiple upgrades from the 2018 Elite. Besides the longer range and the ability to take an additional passenger, it also has advanced avionics.

“The HondaJet Elite has achieved the best performance in its class while also being the most efficient, and with the new Elite S, we take another step forward in expanding the aircraft’s capability,” said Michimasa Fujino, CEO of Honda Aircraft Company, during a virtual product launch. “As a result of the innovation, design and engineering on the new Elite S, we are once again setting a new standard in business aviation.”

The Elite S has an increased maximum take-off weight of 200 pounds that allows customers to fly up 120 nautical miles farther with a higher payload. The customised Garmin G3000 avionics suite now includes FAA DataComm and ACARS for a faster, more efficient communication method through text-based messaging, rather than voice commands, to improve the clarity of messaging for departure clearance, in-flight services and communications with air-traffic control and flight operations.

 The range is now 1,437 nautical miles which means it is good to go from any Indian metropolis to another non-stop. Cruising at 30,000 feet it can beat the storm by rising to a 43,000 feet ceiling.

 A bizzjet with low maintenance costs designed for single-pilot performance it is also the ideal official government and military VIP option. It is swift; it is agile and perfect for the senior echelons since the savings from not taking large aircraft are considerable.

What Hondajet should do is use this time to blitz the Indian market with a series of demonstrations. There is something young and happily brash and innovative about the Hondajet that would resonate with the young scions and rising stars of Indian industry and commerce.

For those who have a feel for the environment, the Elite is low on greenhouse gas emissions and more fuel-efficient.

In the near future, the purchase of even half a dozen light jets in this category could galvanise the bizzjet market in India and seriously upgrade what is, at present, a rather fragile infrastructure by way of dedicated airport terminals, Customs and Immigration facilities for the elite flyer. Experts would all agree that India is the ideal set up for creating a network of bizzports, which would not only enhance travel but also give the corporate world an extra edge in working on the move.

IABD is communicating with Hondajet proactively to promote the Elite across India as part of our extra dimension to publishing. We believe that being interactive and getting involved is the way forward and will make us stand out as a media venture. 

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