Most of the cars I review are the product of a couple of years’ work by their manufacturers. From sketchbook to showroom, a family hatchback might take as little as 18 months to complete, or maybe up to half a decade if it’s a brand new model.
But that’s never been the case with aircraft. In fact, the one I’m flying in today has been in development for longer than I’ve been alive.
I’ve come to Biggin Hill Airport to see the HA-420 ‘HondaJet’. It’s a small private jet – at under five tonnes fully laden and with seven seats in total, it’s what’s commonly described as a very light jet, or VLJ. A tiny wingspan of just over 12 metres and a total length of 13 metres makes it one of the smallest jet-powered aircraft you can buy. And today, I’m going to find out whether you’d want to.
Private jets are unwelcome at busy international hubs so most business aviation ends up at these smaller airports, with Luton, Northolt and Farnborough being among the most popular in London.
This is one of the main caveats of private jet travel – you have more flexibility than you get with scheduled flights but you’re normally forced to use general aviation facilities like this one.