The site's selection resulted from several factors: its proximity to scores of colleges and universities and their associated Ph.D.s; the 10,000-ft. runway; and FedEx's decision to establish a hub there, thus facilitating overnight delivery of parts. In addition, Honda Aircraft President and CEO Michimasa Fujino had established a good working relationship with the FAA regional office in Atlanta while doing prototype work at Mississippi State University and wanted to build upon that.
Four years later, Honda teamed with General Electric to pursue the development, production and sales of a turbofan engine for the light business jet market—what has become the GE Honda Aero Engines HF120. Expected be certified soon, that engine will be manufactured at a new facility in nearby Burlington, N.C.
Since then Honda Aircraft has established a state-of-the-art manufacturing, research and administrative campus at the Greensboro airport encompassing nearly 500,000 sq. ft. under its roofs. And in September, it broke ground on a new 90,000-sq.-ft. maintenance and repair facility there, slated for occupancy in 2013.
The company already employs more than 700 people at the Greensboro site. And even though its HondaJet is well into certification flight-testing, Honda does not anticipate the aircraft's entry into service until the second half of next year, at the earliest.
Arguably, the senior member of the Made-in-the-USA Club is Dassault Falcon Jet—again largely as a result of customer activity. Once he settled upon the Falcon 20 to be his start-up company's first aircraft, Federal Express Founder and CEO Fred Smith had to modify the French twinjet to haul packages. He chose Little Rock Airmotive to do the job of converting the business jet into a cargo carrier by fashioning a large door in the cabin's fuselage. The plan succeeded famously, and FedEx quickly outgrew its Falcons.
Nevertheless, once Dassault decided in the 1970s to move closer to its major customer base and suppliers and outfit and paint its aircraft in the U.S., it turned to the place where workers knew its products intimately and acquired Little Rock Airmotive in 1975.
When Dassault bought it, the Arkansas-based company had a 61,500-sq.-ft. hangar and a core group of highly skilled artisans in cabinetry, carpentry, leather goods, upholstery and a range of other activities. Since that time, the Little Rock base has grown to become Dassault's largest facility—bigger than any in France—employing 1,600 workers. The Dassault plant at Little Rock National Airport now covers 1 million sq. ft. and, according to the company, has completed “well over 1,000 Falcons.”
While the aforementioned are the club's current principals, other international OEMs that had also established major operations in the U.S. have ceded their membership through their acquisition. These include Hawker and Mitsubishi's Diamond Jet, both now part of Hawker Beechcraft, and Galaxy, which was acquired by Gulfstream.
A noteworthy characteristic among those international OEMs who remain independent in the U.S. is their common rejection of locating in well-established aviation manufacturing hubs in, say, Seattle, or in particular, Wichita.
Notably, Embraer, Honda and Dassault (and Hawker, Galaxy and Mitsubishi before them) all established large U.S. manufacturing, assembly or completions operations in southeastern “right to work” states where unions could not exclude or demand dues payments from non-union members. The decision to locate there rather than in a union-strong aviation hub such as Wichita was not by chance.