Sunday, May 17, 2015

Cessna 150C, N1924Z: Incident occurred May 17, 2015 near Animas Air Park (00C), Durango, Colorado

A small plane made an emergency landing on County Road 205 about 3 p.m. Sunday. No injuries were reported.

Buady Barnes of Durango was forced to make an emergency landing in his single-engine plane onto County Road 205 on Sunday afternoon. The plane’s engine failed. The cause of the problem was unknown Sunday evening.

La Plata County Sheriffs spokesperson Dan Bender said that deputies responded to the 2000 block of County Road 205, also known as Turtle Lake Road, about four miles northwest of Durango.

“Baudy Barnes of Durango was flying a Cessna 150C, a single-engine airplane, and he reported that he had engine failure, and he tried to land on or alongside CR 205,” Bender said.

Barnes left Animas Airpark, and shortly after he reported his engine was failing.

No one was injured in the emergency landing, Bender said.

Bender said the a utility line along the road was damaged. The road was closed until the wreckage can be cleared. Bender expected the road would reopen about 6 p.m. Sunday.



With Jet, Honda Enters New Realm • Japanese car maker prepares to deliver ultrafast business jet with engines above wings

The Wall Street Journal
May 17, 2015 7:48 p.m. ET

GREENSBORO, N.C.— Honda Motor Co. is finally getting its wings.

After three decades of planning and development, the Japanese company known for its cars is preparing to deliver one of its most unusual innovations: an ultrafast business jet that carries its engines above its wings. The seven-seat HondaJet, which lists for around $4.5 million, is awaiting final approval by the Federal Aviation Administration after receiving preliminary certification in late March, putting it on pace for delivery to customers around the middle of the year.

The HondaJet makes 67-year-old Honda an upstart member of the exclusive club of airplane makers. For Michimasa Fujino, the 54-year-old chief executive of Honda Aircraft Co., the impending certification is the culmination of a decadeslong fight to make a Honda aircraft in the face of skeptical executives, technical delays and the global recession.

During a flight in the jet from Honda Aircraft’s home base in this North Carolina city, the soft-spoken Mr. Fujino was quick to point out the details large and small that make up the project that has defined his adult life.

His influence touches every aspect of the design, from its curves to the manufacturing process. “This airplane is my art piece,” he said in an interview.

The jet, which makes its European debut this week in Geneva, adds to a nascent aerospace renaissance for Japan, which has long supplied parts and materials to Boeing Co. and Airbus Group NV but hasn’t recently made its own civilian planes. In addition to Honda, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. is separately developing the country’s first commercial airliner in a half century. Its first test flight is scheduled for later this year.

The jet gives Honda—which also makes robots, boat motors, and lawn mowers—entree into a new market. But its success is far from assured in a small-jet segment with entrenched incumbents—Textron Inc.’s Cessna unit and Brazil’s Embraer SA—and uneven demand.

No modern car company has successfully made the transition to building aircraft. Honda is betting that technological advances will trigger new demand from buyers used to more incremental upgrades from its rivals. The HondaJet boasts a lightweight body made of carbon-fiber composites, which helps it tout as much as 17% better fuel efficiency than competitors while having the highest speed in its class: 420 knots, or 480 miles per hour. The aircraft’s automotive influence is evident in things such as push-button engine starters and the company’s use of a dealer network to sell it.

Given Honda’s size, it is likely to be a serious long-term competitor, said Marco TĂșlio Pellegrini, head of Embraer’s executive aircraft business. “I think they have plenty of money,” he said in an interview late last year. “They are investing heavily in promotion and marketing.”

Honda’s aviation aspirations date to its late founder, Soichiro Honda, who was a pilot. Mr. Fujino’s work started in 1986, when Honda sent the then-28-year-old aerospace engineer to Mississippi State University’s Raspet Flight Research Laboratory to design an experimental aircraft.The effort was so secret that Mr. Fujino’s business cards weren’t allowed to indicate his Honda employment, he recalls.

Mr. Fujino said he believed any project the company embarked on would have to distinguish itself from the competition. “If other manufacturers can do it, there’s no reason why we have to do it,” he said.

The first decade produced a pair of designs, but the breakthrough came one night in 1996 when, unable to find a piece of paper, he sketched the basics of the plane’s current design on the back of a wall calendar. Inspired by principles in a 1930s aerodynamics textbook, the design mounted jet engines atop the wings to boost cabin space and cut noise.

The idea bucked industry convention. Business jets sit too low to fit engines below the wings, and putting them above was thought to lead unavoidably to swirling air that drags on the aircraft. So conventional business-jet designs attach the engines to the back of the fuselage, away from the wings. Mr. Fujino’s wing-top design addresses the aerodynamic problem by combining the air flow over wing and engine into a single wave, significantly reducing the force that robs an aircraft of its speed and fuel efficiency.

Honda managers were incredulous, he said, but in late 1997, Mr. Fujino presented the business case to the board with the sketch in hand, receiving approval for a flying prototype. All told, it would take three years of persuasion, using simulations and wind tunnels to prove his point. The project was reminiscent of an earlier era of aviation. Just as Boeing developed a jetliner demonstrator in the 1950s to prove to airlines engines could be slung under the wings, Mr. Fujino set about proving they could work above.

He and around 40 employees started building the prototype in 2000 in a leased airport hangar in Greensboro that provided long runways and clear airspace for testing. The prototype flew successfully in 2003.

Other new small-jet designs also were promising to revolutionize personal travel. A startup called Eclipse Aviation Inc. in 1998 pledged to sell a five-seat jet for under $1 million. Eclipse filed for bankruptcy after delivering just 260 aircraft, but it spurred Cessna and Embraer to follow, and helped persuade Honda to start its aircraft subsidiary in 2006. It quickly accumulated more than 100 orders for HondaJet, which it aimed to deliver by 2010.

Then came the recession, which decimated demand for small private jets and prompted Honda to reconsider. “We had a heated discussion of what to do with the airplane business,” said Yoshiharu Yamamoto, former head of Honda’s technology laboratory, who retired from that post at the end of March. “If we had stopped there, we would have wasted all those technologies.” Honda stuck with the project after Mr. Fujino promised a more stringent budget—which slowed the jet’s debut.

Honda is part of a growing aerospace cluster in North Carolina. Today, HondaJet’s workforce has grown to 1,300 at its 133-acre campus here, providing easy access to the U.S. and Europe, 80% of its estimated market. Honda’s General Electric Co. joint venture and GKN Aerospace, a unit of GKN PLC, have both set up factories in the region.

Mr. Fujino says transitioning to serial production is smoothed by the fact that HondaJet has established a tight core of about 50 suppliers—including Garmin Ltd. and Sumitomo Precision Products Co.—that he lined up during visits to dozens of prospective vendors when the jet was still a “purely experimental project” in 1999.

Honda hasn’t disclosed its spending on the HondaJet, but the company boasts a huge research-and-development budget—about $5.3 billion in its fiscal 2014. By comparison, Boeing spent $3 billion on R&D last year.

Mike Whalen, CEO of hotel-and-restaurant company Heart of America Group DBA, ponied up a $75,000 deposit in 2007 for his HondaJet, which he initially expected to get in March 2012. He now hopes to get it in June.

Mr. Whalen’s business is expanding beyond its base in the Upper Midwest to states including Texas and Colorado. With limited air service from its Moline, Ill., headquarters, “going most places commercial can take all day,” said Mr. Whalen, who currently has a King Air propeller plane with lower speed and less range. The HondaJet is “a tool that’s going to allow us to go from a Midwestern company…past six or seven states.”

Mr. Fujino is looking to the future. “A company has to have longevity,” he said of his strategic mandate. “We look at 20 years or even 50 years of Honda’s growth in the long term. In order to have that kind of longevity, we have to invest [in] our future.”

Mr. Fujino showed no signs of slowing down. Sitting atop wings he designed, he said, “I’ll learn to fly when I retire.”

—Eric Pfanner contributed to this article.

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