Mitsubishi’s MRJ on Track To Fly This Year

 - May 27, 2013, 10:40 AM
Mitsubishi Aircraft chairman and CEO Hideo Egawa says that assembling the team to develop the MRJ regional jet is the company’s biggest challenge yet. (Photo: Alan Klein)

Japan’s first indigenous commercial passenger jet, the MRJ, is on track to make its first flight this year, according to Hideo Egawa, chairman and CEO of Mitsubishi Aircraft. While Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has long contributed components and assemblies in support of other manufacturer’s projects, the next-generation MRJ represents its first designed and produced passenger jet. Indeed, Egawa described the task of integrating all the efforts to produce the regional jet as one of the biggest challenges Mitsubishi Aircraft has faced since its launch in 2008.

Speaking last week at a Japan Society luncheon in New York, he told the audience that the MRJ has received the largest number of pre-first-flight orders in its class as it challenges the existing market leaders, Bombardier and Embraer, along with newcomers Sukhoi (Superjet 100) and Comac (ARJ21). The company order book stands at 325, split nearly evenly between firm orders and options. Of those, 300 are from U.S. companies Trans States Holdings and Skywest Airlines, with the remaining orders coming from Japan’s ANA.

The company sees a trend toward larger regional jets and to meet that demand it is planning a line of regional jets. Expected to arrive on the market first is the MRJ90 with a target of 92 seats, followed by the MRJ70 with 76. A larger follow-on, the MRJ100x is still in the concept stage. The three aircraft will share a high degree of commonality, which will result in a common pilot type rating. All will use the same Pratt & Whitney PurePower PW1217G geared turbofan engines, the same maintenance programs and draw from the same pool of parts.

Egawa touted the MRJ’s “eye-catching fuel-efficiency numbers for the airline industry,” claiming the aircraft will have an anticipated 11 percent lower block fuel burn per trip than the Bombardier CRJ900NG and 13 percent lower than the Embraer E175. The MRJ’s block fuel per passenger is 14 percent lower than the CRJ’s and 19 percent lower than the ERJ’s, Egawa said. That efficiency translates into increased range for the fully fly-by-wire twin-engine jet, allowing nonstop flights from Denver to New York City or Miami, for example. The new engines will also contribute to a 40-percent reduction in noise footprint on takeoff as compared with the E190, according to its developer.

The MRJ’s new “slim seats,” manufactured by Zodiac, feature a thinner seat back that will take up less space between rows, in essence giving the same amount of passenger knee clearance in a 29-inch pitch as in a conventional 31-inch pitch row, Egawa said.