Fresh Delay for MRJ
Mitsubishi Aircraft will decide within “a few months” the extent to which a “rescheduling” of the Mitsubishi Regional Jet could affect the timing of first flight of the 92-seat MRJ90, officially still scheduled to occur this year. Speaking at the Singapore Airshow yesterday, the Japanese firm’s director of marketing Yugo Fukuhara confirmed the delay, but would not offer any details about the reasons.
Apparently, a coming together of events has raised concerns among Mitsubishi Aircraft executives about the program’s progress, but vice president of sales and marketing Hank Iwasa would say only that the airplane’s Pratt & Whitney PW1217G engines do not account for one of the pacing items. “This is a game changing regional jet,” said Iwasa. “We are always facing challenges… but I cannot mention specifics.”
Expected to gain certification in 2014, the MRJ90 has drawn commitments from just three customers, including a firm order from Japan’s ANA for 15 airplanes and another firm order from Trans States Airlines of the U.S. for 50. ANI Group Holdings of Hong Kong has signed an MOU covering five. That deal, however, could prove more strategically significant than its small size suggests. ANI, in fact, has promised to order twenty 100-seat MRJ100Xs if Mitsubishi chooses to launch the project.
The manufacturer continues to study the market for the 100-seat MRJ100X, a decision on which would come after first flight of the MRJ90, said Fukuhara. Iwasa said the company has entered into various stages of “several good [sales] campaigns,” two of which involve a U.S. and an Asian prospect.
Fukuhara called the planned one-and-a-half-year flight test period for the MRJ90 “a little conservative” and hinted that the company might, in fact, find some margin within that schedule to help mitigate the delay.
Mitsubishi plans to use five MRJ90 flight test airplanes, a ground test airplane and a static test example, followed by two flight test articles for the 78-seat MRJ70, scheduled for certification roughly a year after its larger sibling.
Last week BAE Systems Regional Aircraft announced at a press conference in London that it had been selected to manufacture, test and supply flight test equipment – building on a previous contract to help Mitsubishi prepare for the flight-test phase.