Home' Asian Aviation : AAV July-Aug 2014 Contents 36 AsianAviation | JULY-AUG 2014
ASIAN AIRCRAFT PROGRAMMES
Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation had a
good Farnborough Air Show in 2012,
winning a 100-strong order from
US regional airline holding company
SkyWest Airlines for its MRJ90.
Since then the MRJ programme has had its
ups and downs -- mainly the latter, with a series
of delays. The first flight is now scheduled for the
second quarter of 2015, with the entry into service
with launch customer ANA in the second quarter of
2017. This compares with an initial plan of first flight
in December 2011, with first delivery in 2013.
However, there are signs of progress over the last
year. In October 2013, the final assembly of the first
flight test aircraft commenced, following the transfer
of the mid-fuselage to its final assembly plant.
The main wings were delivered to the final-
assembly factory in April this year, and the first
Pratt & Whitney PurePower PW1200G engine
was delivered at the end of May. The outfitting and
mating of the wings and fuselage got underway in
The second flight test aircraft is also under final
assembly, while the static strength test aircraft was
transferred in early May from the final-assembly
factory to the strength test station. The test is
scheduled to start this summer, after preparations
are completed. "We won't disclose the detailed
future schedule," says the company.
There are seven test aircraft in total: five for flight
test and two for ground test (one for static strength
test and the other for fatigue strength test).
The company will no doubt be hoping for another
good Farnborough. There are currently 165 firm
orders and 160 options. ANA was the launch
customer in March 2008 with 15 firm orders and 10
options. This was firmed up in June 2010.
Trans States Holdings signed a letter of intent for
50 firm and 50 options in October 2009, reaffirming
this order in December 2010. SkyWest confirmed its
Farnborough order for 100 MRJs with 100 options
in December 2012.
There have been no order announcements since
then, with JAL being a noticeable absentee from the
orderbooks. The delays have largely eroded the time
advantage Mitsubishi had on Embraer's E2 jet, the
re-engined version of its E-Jet family that are also
powered by Pratt & Whitney geared turbofans. These
are scheduled to enter service from 2018. Mitsubishi
says its "clean sheet design" will give it an advantage.
JAL operates Embraer E-Jets.
There have been three serious delays to the
programme since its launch. The first was in
September 2009, with the company putting this
down to the need to "accommodate improvements
to the design of the cabin configuration, the wing box
and the cargo compartment."
In a statement at the time, Mitsubishi said: "These
improvements are the result of discussions with
and feedback from our customers. The improved
design will allow the MRJ to meet and exceed the
expectations of the market."
The company added, "The new configuration will
offer a wider cabin with more head clearance than
the competitor's. The cabin height has been raised
an additional 1.5 inches. This also translates into
an additional 12% volume of space in the overhead
bin,'" The OEM also opted for aluminium, rather than
composite wings, partly to facilitate a possible 100-
seat stretched version. The MRJ90 has 92 seats, with
the next derivative being the MRJ70, with 72 seats.
All this put back the first flight from the fourth
quarter of 2011 to the second quarter of 2012, with
EIS planned for the first quarter of 2014.
The second major delay was announced in April
2012, and was put down to the need to "confirm
respective fabrication processes and to provide
sufficient time for technical studies." This put back
the schedule for the first test flight to the fourth
quarter of 2013, with EIS put back to between
summer of 2015 to first quarter 2016.
The third delay came in August 2013, as the
OEM and the Japanese authorities struggled with
certification issues. "We needed to spend significant
time focusing on building the process to validate
safety from the designing and developing phase as
well as determining the equipment specifications,"
Design and respective certification "have taken
greater resources than anticipated which, in
turn, impacted component deliveries and aircraft
fabrication," said the company, adding that in step
with programme partners, it has established this
new schedule "to take into account the fulfilment of
respective safety certification standards."
Mitsubishi is certainly not the first manufacturer to
struggle with programme development. Established
players have seen some well-publicised delays
Getting back on track
Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation was one of the star performers at Farnborough in 2012,
but has had a torrid time since then. It hopes to have the MRJ programme back on
track, writes Colin Baker
MITSUBISHI AIRCRAFT CORPORATION
The wings of the first MRJ test flight aircraft
were mated with the fuselage in June
"Mitsubishi is certainly not
the first manufacturer to struggle
with programme development.
Established players have seen some
well-publicised delays as well."
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