MIAMI — Tuesday morning, Mitsubishi provided updates on its flight test program for its first aircraft, the Mitsubishi Regional Jet, at the Regional Airline Association conference. The manufacturer is currently conducting ground testing with two aircraft before the first flight which is expected to occur sometime in September or October of this year; sometime next year, the flight test program will move over to the United States.
Mitsubishi rolled out its first MRJ aircraft on October 18, 2014, and since, the manufacturer has been conducting system tests as well as other ground tests. Yugo Fukuhara, Vice President and General Manager of Sales and Marketing, explained that the first engine run up was very smooth and that all of the systems successfully integrated. He also noted that the engines are very quiet compared to the typical jet engine.
However, the MRJ program has suffered some delays as the first flight was pushed back. Though, the executives see this as a good thing to ensure that no troubles arise before it hands over the first one to ANA in 2017.
Flight Test Aircraft Roles
Seven aircraft are participating in flight testing; although, two aircraft are not fully built as one is a static test aircraft, and the other is a fatigue test aircraft which is currently in final assembly.
Flight Test Aircraft 1 was the aircraft that rolled out last year, and Fukuhara says this will be the aircraft to fly the first flight this fall. The aircraft is currently in ground testing for systems and and envelope expansion. It is worthwhile to note that this aircraft is in the full Mitsubishi aircraft colors; most aircraft are painted differently in order to tell them apart as they all have different functions.
Flight Test Aircraft 2 exited final assembly earlier this year, and it is being used to test functionality and aircraft performance. The aircraft is expected to take to the skies sometime late this year or early next year. This aircraft only has a red part of the Mitsubishi livery on the fuselage.
Flight Test Aircraft 3 is just completing assembly. It will then conduct ground tests, until it makes its first flight early next year. This aircraft will be used to test flight characteristics and avionics. This aircraft only has the black part of the Mitsubishi livery on the fuselage.
Flight Test Aircraft 4 will also complete assembly later this year, and it will be the fist MRJ aircraft to have an interior. The manufacturer will use the aircraft to conduct interior, noise, and anti-ice testing, and it will make its first flight next year. Since the aircraft will be the first with a full interior, it wears the full livery.
Flight Test Aircraft 5 is also completing final assembly which will have a primary role of testing the autopilot in the flight test program. To recognize ANA as the launch customer, it will be painted in ANA livery. However, Fukuhara says it will never be delivered to ANA.
Flight Testing Moves to the United States
In the second quarter of 2016, Flight Test Aircrafts 1, 2, 3, and 4 will move to the U.S. continue flight testing. The base airport for U.S. flight tests will be out of Grant County International Airport (Moses Lake). There will be a Seattle Engineering Center in South Seattle to support U.S. flight testing; Fukuhara says that there will be about 50 engineers form Japan and about 100 others that will be based out of this facility.
Flight testing will also occur in Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport for high altitude take off and landings; for extreme environment testing, Mitsubishi will test the MRJ at McKinley Climatic Laboratory. Lastly, it will use Roswell International Air Center for special runway tests.
New Final Assembly Factory in Komaki, Japan
A new Final Assembly Factory in Japan is currently being built. This is where Mitsubishi will assemble all of its aircraft in, and it is expected to open sometime early next year. Currently, the manufacturer is working out of existing hangars, but in oder to ramp up production, it will need the new factory.
When Fukuhara was asked about the Scope Clause (which prevents regional carriers from operating planes which exceed certain seat capacity or weight limits), he explained that he is not concerned and that the MRJ90 currently does exceed those numbers which is good for the U.S. regionals have ordered the aircraft.