Mitsubishi Aircraft has narrowed its first flight target for the MRJ regional jet to “the latter half of October” as the company aims to complete aircraft-level ground and engineering tests by late this month. During a briefing on Wednesday in Nagoya, Japan, the company’s chief engineer, Nobuo Kishi, told reporters that static strength testing, including trials involving main wing-up bending and fuselage pressurization, has confirmed the MRJ’s structural readiness for first flight.
Plans call for a one-hour maiden test mission dedicated to confirming basic flight characteristics involving descent and left and right circling. Engineers have decided to keep certain moveable parts such as the landing gear and flaps in the fixed position and not engage the thrust reverser system during the first flight. After the flight, said Kishi, the company plans to conduct “test feedback modification” to expand the flight envelope.
Still citing a second-quarter target date for first delivery to All Nippon Airways (ANA), Mitsubishi in July and August conducted test feedback modification and technical data checks on the first two of a planned fleet of five flight-test vehicles. Plans call for the first flying prototype to perform envelope expansion and systems tests; the second to carry out performance and function tests; the third to evaluate detailed flight characteristics and avionics tests; the fourth to perform interior, community noise and icing tests; and the fifth to assess autopilot function.
The company plans to carry out much of its flight-testing at Grant County Airport in Moses Lake, Washington, in the U.S., to take advantage of its long runways and lack of regular scheduled airline service. Other testing sites in the U.S. include Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport in Colorado, where the company plans to conduct high-altitude takeoff and landing tests. Meanwhile, it has chosen Roswell International Air Center in New Mexico for special runway tests and McKinley Climatic Laboratory in Florida for extreme environment testing.
It also plans to employ 150 engineers at a new engineering center in Seattle to support all the testing activity in the U.S.