Mitsubishi’s Airshow rollercoaster

Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation is confident that people will be won over by its MRJ90 regional jet as it continues with its debut appearance at the Farnborough International Airshow this week, despite some unfortunate luck.

The aircraft made a successful debut airshow flight on Monday to the delight of the project team and onlookers but unfortunately was subsequently damaged during pushback to static parking by a tow vehicle, with the company having to make the tough decision not to participate in Tuesday’s flight display after an initial evaluation.

However, the company remains buoyant about the prospects for the week. Speaking at a press briefing, Hisakazu Mizutani, president of Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation, summarised the company’s hopes for the show: “With the demonstration flights that we were able to do yesterday we feel that we have been able to make a grand debut on this very big stage in the world.”

“This was a big chance to showcase our good product to people around the world and we feel that by doing this, we are able to enhance our promotion activities or business activities more with customers around the world. Especially after they have seen the beautiful and the quiet flight of the MRJ – this should definitely encourage our customers and also us to do more detailed business and proceed into the future business strategies,” he continued.

Making progress

Presenting a programme update, Alex Bellamy, chief development officer, highlighted that the aircraft has now racked up 2,000 flight hours with over 50% of the testing complete.

He stressed that the team is working on improving the maturity of the aircraft before delivery and testing it in diverse environments to ensure the company will know how it will perform for the customer. It has also established a Certification Management Office and been working closely with JCAB (Japan Civil Aviaion Bureau) and FAA (Federal Aviation Administration).

The MRJ90 is now starting the next phase of flight testing, including evaluating runway performance, and Bellamy added that the final configuration flight test aircraft manufacturing is in progress.

Yugo Fukuhara, vice-president and general manager, head of commercial sales and marketing, also gave an insight into the MRJ target market. Calling it a cyclical industry, he said: “We are at the beginning of the next upturn and we are in a very good position to capture the next upturn in orders.”

He forecast that in the next 20 years there will be more than 5,000 regional jets deliveries, with North America taking 40% of the pie. However the region is also subject to the scope clause contract, and the MRJ90 is positioned for US scope relief,  he said. The smaller MRJ70, he added, is the only clean-sheet design regional jet that meets the current US scope clause.

Waiting in the wings

Related to the progress of the MRJ70 programme, Bellamy said the company’s focus remains on the MRJ90 and securing its delivery date of mid-2020 with launch customer All Nippon Airways (ANA). A strategy team is, however, working on the MRJ70 programme, he added.

The team is investigating what the product should look like to be “the best product in the market place,” and that although it is the only clean sheet, “What else do we need to do to differentiate us from the existing generation aircraft.”

Mitsubishi plans for the smaller aircraft to enter service around a year after the MRJ90, circa late 2021 or early 2022.

Fukuhara added that “one of the greatest opportunities” for the MRJ70 will be replacing older aircraft, particularly in the US, forecasting that the replacement cycle will start from 2022.

Image: Hitoshi Iwasa, head of Moses Lake Flight Test Center, Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation, presents an update on the testing progress of the MRJ90.

 

Written by: Mark Thomas

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