Saturday, October 18, 2014

First Mitsubishi Regional Jet is rolled out.

On October 18th, Mitsubishi Aircraft officially rolled out the prototype Mitsubishi Regional Jet MRJ in a ceremony held at their factory at Nagoya/Komaki (NKM/RJNA). Registered JA21MJ, it is the first of five test aircraft. This is the first Japanese commercial aircraft since the NAMC YS-11, which was introduced almost half a century ago. Maiden flight is planned for second quarter 2015, starting a three-year-long flight testing and certification process, with certification expected by early 2017 for delivery to launch customer All Nippon Airways (NH/ANA) in second quarter 2017.
Mitsubishi Regional Jet prototype MRJ90 JA21MJ at the roll-out ceremony. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

First flight was originally planned for 2011 with deliveries starting in 2013, however, a redesign of the fuselage and wing, as well as Mitsubishi's inexperience in airworthiness certification procedures forced them to delay the project by at least 3.5 years. "The dream of a Made-in-Japan product boasting top-class efficiency and comfort is now becoming reality. We feel very proud to be able to offer the MRJ to the world with confidence," said Hideaki Omiya, Chairman of Mitsubishi. Meanwhile, Shinichiro Ito, President and CEO of ANA Holdings, parent of launch customer ANA, went on to congratulate "Seeing the MRJ, I am deeply moved. We are eager to take the first aircraft, and it is an honor to become the first operator."

Along with Mr. Omiya, Teruaki Kawai, President and COO of Mitsubishi also presented the brand-new airplane to over 500 guests, including Mr. Ito, as well as Yoshiharu Ueki, President of Japan Airlines (JL/JAL). Invited to the ceremony were also government officials including Akihiro Nishimura, Vice Minister of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism (MLIT), Hideki Niwa, Vice Minister of Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT), and Atsuo Kuroda, Director-General of Manufacturing Industries Bureau at the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI).

Powered by Pratt & Whitney's PurePower PW1200G series geared turbofan engines, the MRJ family consists of the 78-seat MRJ70, which can fly 3,380 kilometers (2,100 miles), and the 92-seat MRJ90, with a 3,310-kilometer (2,050 miles) range. Mitsubishi plans to carry out flight testing utilizing two MRJ90s in Japan and three in the U.S.A. The latter will start taking place in the second half of next year at Grant County (MWH/KMWH) in Moses Lake, Washington. Two static airframes, one of which is already undergoing testing, will be used to measure strength and verify fatigue characteristics. Meanwhile, the MRJ70 will not enter flight testing until the MRJ90 achieves airworthiness certification. Total development cost currently stands at 180 billion JPY.

The MRJ has so far garnered 375 commitments; ANA has 15 firm and 10 options, Trans States Airlines (AX/LOF) has 50 firm and 50 options, SkyWest has 100 firm and 100 options for operations with subsidiaries ExpressJet Airlines (EV/ASQ) and SkyWest Airlines (OO/SKW), Air Mandalay (6T/LMT) has six firm and four options, and yet-to-be-started Eastern Air Lines (Mk II) has 20 firm and 20 options. JAL signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for 32 in August (JAL orders 32 Mitsubishi MRJs and 27 Embraer E-Jets.) and that order is expected to be confirmed soon, bringing the total to 407.

Reference: Aviation Week, October 13th. (in English)
Reference: Mitsubishi Aircraft, October 18th. (in Japanese)
Reference: Aviation Wire, October 18th. (in Japanese)

*Edited/updated on October 19th, 2014.

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