MRJ On Critical Path Toward Final Assembly

 - July 8, 2013, 12:40 PM
A production prototype MRJ vertical tail section rests in a jig in Nagoya as Mitsubishi prepares for final assembly of the first flying test article. (Photo: Mitsubishi Aircraft)

Mitsubishi Aircraft expects parent company Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to start final assembly of the first MRJ90 in Nagoya, Japan, within “two to three months,” ostensibly in time for its planned maiden flight by year-end. Schedules call for first delivery of the airplane to launch customer All Nippon Airways of Japan by the end of 2015.

Speaking with AIN during June’s Paris Air Show, Mitsubishi Aircraft director of marketing Yugo Fukuhara detailed the certification plan, which calls for some 2,500 flight-test hours over the course of close to two years. He said the first aircraft, MSN10001, will test basic flight characteristics, possible expansion of the altitude and airspeed envelopes, major systems and runway performance, including hot-and-high analysis at a still undetermined location in the U.S.

The second airplane, MSN9001, will serve as a ground-test airplane and assess static strength. The company plans to use the third airplane and second flight-test example, MSN10002, for general flight performance tests; the fourth, MSN10003, will prove detailed flight characteristics and test avionics; the fifth, MSN10004, will perform systems and interior tests, natural icing, extreme temperature tests and community noise tests, again at undetermined locations in the U.S. Finally, MSN10005 will test autopilot performance and flight characteristics with simulated ice shapes.

At the time Fukuhara spoke with AIN, assembly of the first airplane’s fuselage, wings, vertical tail and horizontal tail had progressed to near completion at MHI in Nagoya.

Meanwhile, oversight of the program’s U.S. partners, until recently conducted exclusively in Japan, has moved to Mitsubishi Aircraft America’s offices outside Chicago. There, Mitsubishi has established a so-called quality cost delivery (QCD) division to allow for “smoother handling” of the MRJ program’s qualification tests and inspection.

Expected to improve material procurement and schedule management and result in what Mitsubishi calls more effective operations overall in the U.S., the division expands the scope of responsibility of the Chicago office’s supply chain management team. Next, a QCD division in Europe now under consideration would perform the same kind of oversight of Mitsubishi’s partners on that continent.