Will Toyota Ever Build Their GA Plane?

8:56 AM

This is by no means breaking news, in fact the link goes to a story dated 2002. But it is a topic that is always there in my head demanding attention.

Through the late 90s and early 2000s, Toyota of Japan dabbled in aviation, testing the waters to see if there was a market in Yankeeland for Flying Corollas. They even worked with Burt Rutan down in Mojave to test fly a prototype, which looked like a Cirrus/Lancair Columbia hybrid. A composite bird, it did have a promising powerplant:

Most of what we know about Japanese GA activity has come through brief glimpses, rumor and speculation. We do know that between 1992 and 1995, Toyota funded an engine research project to explore the conversion of its sophisticated Lexus V-8 engine to aircraft use. This became the FV4000, a 360-hp watercooled powerplant complete with fuel injection and full-authority digital engine controls (FADEC) that pioneered the current round of engine-control products just finding their way to market. According to those familiar with the project, the FV4000 was a promising engine and was actually certified by the FAA, including type and production certificates.
But as we all know, the Japanese have never moved forward with a launch into the American aviation market. Honda has moved forward with the HondaJet, but as of 05.29.09, there are STILL no HondaJets in a showroom near you.

I have always driven Toyota trucks for their supreme reliability. My current version, a ’95 T100, has – and I am not lying – 220,000 miles on the original brakes. Each time I get a new set of tires, I ask that they inspect the brakes, and each time they say my wear levels are well within tolerance. This vehicle is freakishly durable.

So how come Toyota and/or Honda hasn’t launched a Lexus with wings? The basic fuselage is there (sort of), already has GPS, already has great leather seats and a wonderful air-bag safety system. And the powerplant is smooth, reliable and very, very powerful. Are we to be surprised that Tokyo hasn’t welded wings and a tail to a SC 430?

I am guessing that if the Japanese wanted to build the equivalent to a SR 22, they could do so easily. I’ll lay money they already have the plans stashed away too.

Do I want this to happen? Yes, bring it on! I might buy one, if they could prove to be as good a value as the Toyota trucks I have driven since 1974. But Average Joes and Janes cannot afford new airplanes that hoveer around the $500,000 mark today, so if the Japanese produced a decent bird for about the price of an Escalade, it certainly would be a great thing for general aviation.

All this might not be great for Independence or Duluth, but then again what has brought down modern day Detroit was internal Board Room stupidity and union greed, not competition from the Nippon Motors dealership across from every GM store in America.

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