Honda Motor Co. (HMC) announced plans Tuesday to start accepting sales orders this fall for the small jet it debuted last year.

The company also said it has formed a business alliance with Piper Aircraft.

"Aviation has been an important dream of Honda for more than four decades," said Satoshi Toshida, Honda's senior managing director, in a statement announcing the move at the Experimental Aircraft Association AirVenture 2006 convention in Oshkosh.

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"Our goal is consistent with the philosophy of other Honda products — to provide convenient and efficient transportation that will make people's lives better."

The company said it will set up a new U.S. company to hold Federal Aviation Administration type certification and production certification for its HondaJet, with the goal of completing type certification in about three to four years, followed by the start of production in the United States.

Honda said HondaJet's patented over-the-wing engine-mount configuration helps eliminate the need for a structure to mount the engines to the rear fuselage, maximizing space in the fuselage for passengers and luggage. It said the over-the-wing mount also reduces drag at high speed to improve fuel efficiency.

Honda said its prototype six-to-seven seat HondaJet has completed more than 240 hours of flight-testing since December 2003, achieving an altitude of 43,000 feet and a speed of 412 knots.

The announcement came one year after the plane made its world public debut at EAA AirVenture 2005 in Oshkosh.

"In Piper we believe we have a partner we can collaborate with in our effort to bring new value to customers in the very light jet market," Toshida said.

The company did not immediately release specific details on the collaboration.

Piper Aircraft, headquartered in Vero Beach, Fla., has produced more than 144,000 aircraft and developed more than 180 different models in its 70-year history. Tokyo-based Honda produces automobiles, motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles, power products, marine engines and personal watercraft.

"This business alliance is a perfect fit given the commitment both Piper and Honda have to providing our respective customers with world class products and services," Piper President and Chief Executive James K. Bass said in a statement.

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