February 6, 2018 / 5:43 AM / in a year

HondaJet's China certification could happen as early as end-2018 - CEO

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - HondaJet is hopeful its jet will receive certification in China by the end of 2018, faster than earlier forecast, the CEO of the aircraft unit of Honda Motor Co said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: Honda Motor's HondaJet business airplane is seen at Honda Aircraft Company in Greensboro, North Carolina, U.S., November 11, 2016. REUTERS/Maki Shiraki

A certification for the six-seater light business plane would allow HondaJet to tap in to an expected rise in demand from a growing class of young high net-worth individuals in China and in Asia. The jet has already received U.S. and European certifications, in 2015 and 2016, respectively.

The company applied for certification from China’s aviation regulator in August last year and predicted it would need 18 months to obtain approval.

“But it seems to me that the timeframe might be much better than 18 months,” Chief Executive Michimasa Fujino said.

“We are expecting around the end of this year,” Fujino, who is also the chief engineer of the six-seater light business jet, said on the sidelines of the Singapore Airshow.

He sees strong potential demand in the country and Asia for its light plane as more rich young people opt for personal jets, a space currently dominated by larger planes in China.

“Generally aviation manufacturers do not disclose the exact number of prediction, but many third-party statistics show that there will be (demand for) 700-800 units in next ten years (in China and Asia),” he said.

While tight government controls over China’s airspace, which analysts say have hurt growth of the private jet market, remained a concern, CEO Fujino said he was optimistic regulations would gradually ease.

HondaJet has already partnered with Guangzhou-based Honsan General Aviation to provide sales services in China, Hong Kong and Macau. It has also opened a new sales outlet at China’s Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport in December.

HondaJet currently has 15 dealers globally, including in Bangkok through which it serves the Southeast Asian market.

Fujino said he sees demand for HondaJet in India and the Middle East, but added the firm was considering its plans there.

He declined to comment on recent media reports that the firm was planning to introduce new models, but said the HondaJet could, from an engineering standpoint, be stretched.

Reporting by Brenda Goh; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Himani Sarkar

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