Mitsubishi MRJ Schedule Slips Further

Mitsubishi MRJ Schedule Slips Further

In a press conference update on progress with the MRJ regional jet, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) has confirmed, as anticipated,  a two-year delay to the programme.  The first MRJ90, the 90 seat version, is now expected to be delivered to launch customer All Nippon Airways (ANA) in mid-2020.

This is not the first delay in the programme.  So far there have been 5 slips in the delivery schedule, totalling 5 years.

The prototype first flew on 11 November 2015, but a year later there was a major reorganisation in the programme to try to restore order.

Mitsubishi MRJ MRJ90 schedule delay

The Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp is 64% owned by MHI.  Toyota Motor Corporation and Mitsubishi Corporation each own 10%.  Other shareholders include Sumitomo Corporation and Mitsui & Co.

In a joint statement MHI and MAC said:

The change is due to revisions of certain systems and electrical configurations on the aircraft to meet the latest requirements for certification.

We will continue with [the] ongoing flight test programme with current test aircraft configuration and obtain certification flight test data of performance, flight characteristics for type certification.

They say that the revisions will not affect the aircraft’s structure, its performance, or system functionality.

Flight tests are currently under way in the US at Moses Lake, WA.  The MRJ90 is now expected to obtain type certification in mid-2019.

Mitsubishi has commitments for 427 aircraft, comprised of 233 firm orders, 170 options and 24 purchase rights.

The MRJ will be the first airliner designed and produced in Japan since the NAMC YS-11 in the 1960s.

UPDATE 30 January 2017: In an editorial, Flight International comment:

Although the MRJ’s customers in the USA may express their frustration, the fresh delay does not significantly inconvenience them, as pilot scope clauses will prevent its deployment there until 2019 at the earliest.

However, the real worry for the fledgling airframer is the competitive advantage it is ceding to rival Embraer. The MRJ should have had a seven-year head-start over the E175-E2, but assuming current schedules hold, that has now been whittled down to just 12 months.

UPDATE 31 January 2017: The company plans to boost the number of engineers at its Seattle facility from 150 to 200.  Additionally:

ANA, Japan’s biggest airline, said last week it was “disappointed” at this latest delay, but will continue to support the development of the jet as its launch customer. The carrier will maintain its order of 25 planes, including options, it said.

St. George, Utah-based SkyWest Inc., which has placed an order for 200 planes including options, said last week that its firm orders for the MRJ aircraft “remain unchanged” and are dependent on flying contracts and scope availability. Bridgeton, Mo.-based Trans States Airlines Inc., which has 100 MRJs on order, said in an e-mail that it was “disappointed” by the additional delay.

UPDATE 3 April 2017: The fourth MRJ, FTA-3, has arrived at Moses Lake after a 19 day ferry flight, delayed by hydraulic problems en route.

UPDATE 26 April 2017:  Production line photographs.

UPDATE 21 August 2017: The second prototype suffered an engine failure during flight test in the US which resulted in a temporary pause in flight test.

UPDATE 27 December 2017: Mitsubishi Aircraft Details Latest Organizational Changes

Mitsubishi Aircraft plans to undergo organizational changes that will see MRJ program director Alex Bellamy run what the company calls its new program management division…. Established to “reinforce the development and management of the MRJ program,” the division encompasses the newly established integrated product team (IPT) execution department, the governance management office, and the product strategy office.

Mitsubishi has also decided to restructure its engineering division…into five departments encompassing aircraft integration, mechanical system design, electrical system design, airframe design, and avionics, fly-by-wire, and software design, along with three offices dedicated to interiors, test rig integration, and electrical wiring interconnect design…to achieve “more efficient communications and quicker decision-making.”

The project has flown:

…four flight-test airplanes a total of some 1,500 hours [and] more than 50 percent of their duties ahead of expected certification in late 2019.

….while production crews had attached wings and begun painting the fifth flight-test airplane.

Meanwhile, another six airplanes have entered various stages of assembly, laying the foundation for a plan to accelerate production “in a phased manner” until eventually reaching a rate of 10 per month.

UPDATE 4 January 2018:  However it is reported that

…one of the aircraft’s few customers, Eastern Airlines, appears to be close to reversing its commitment.

In July 2014 Eastern signed an MoU for 20 firm MRJ90s plus 20 options, but the carrier was acquired by Swift Air in 2017, and many suspect the new buyer is unwilling to wait for the MRJ.

First MRJ Prototype Taxiing in Japan (Credit: CHIYODA I)

First MRJ Prototype Taxiing at Nagoya, Japan (Credit: CHIYODA I)

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