Japan’s All Nippon Airways (ANA) has confirmed its interest in the proposed Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) for its planned fleet expansion. “Indeed, we are considering the MRJ, but we are also looking at similar products from Bombardier and Embraer,” said a spokesman for ANA, Japan’s second-largest carrier. He said the airline was looking for an aircraft that would fill a capacity gap between its Boeing 737s, which seat 120 to 130 people, and its 74-seat Bombardier Q400 turboprops.
The largely composite MRJ would carry between 70 and 90 seats and would become the first application for Pratt & Whitney’s new fuel-efficient geared turbofan (GTF) engine. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) has looked for an opportunity to develop a commercial airplane since 1973, when production ended for the YS-11–Japan’s first homebuilt aircraft after World War II. The company is seeking the cooperation of long-time partner Boeing and is considering setting up a new company to handle development, manufacturing and marketing of the aircraft.
MHI has selected Rockwell Collins’ Pro Line Fusion integrated avionics system for the MRJ cockpit, featuring 15-inch-diagonal LCD flight displays and optional capabilities for enhanced and synthetic vision. As systems integrator for the project, Rockwell Collins will provide communication, navigation, surveillance and aircraft maintenance systems for the aircraft.
The manufacturer has been conducting research and development for the MRJ as a technology development project in Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Development Organization. The project targets verification of new technologies related to aircraft control and weight reduction.
MHI expects demand for about 5,000 airplanes in the class of the MRJ over the next 20 years. If it goes ahead with an industrial launch by the end of this year’s first quarter as planned, MHI would hope to certify the airplane by 2012.
Last month Mitsubishi established a wholly owned subsidiary to produce commercial aircraft components in Hanoi, Vietnam. MHI Aerospace Vietnam Co. Ltd. (MHIVA) is due to begin assembling metal aircraft components by the spring of 2009, starting with flaps for the Boeing 737. MHI credited Boeing for supporting the initiative, launched in an effort to lower labor costs and focus Japanese resources on “high-value-added operations.”
Capitalized at $7 million, MHIVA now has 50 employees, but plans call for an expansion of the workforce to about 200 once production gains momentum. Mitsubishi has chosen a 4.7-acre site in the Thang Long Industrial Park, some 10 miles northwest of central Hanoi, to build a production plant covering 43,055 sq ft in floor area.
Production schedules call for delivery of shipsets of flaps for two airplanes each month early in 2009 and eight a month by the end of 2010, followed by 10 each month in 2011.
“The company decided to locate MHIVA in Hanoi, Vietnam, not only because it was able to secure a production site within a Japanese-affiliated industrial park with a good industrial infrastructure, but also in view of such factors as Vietnam’s diligent labor force, robust economy, stable public security and the presence of overseas transport routes,” said Mitsubishi in a statement.