MIAMI — The first of four Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) test aircraft arrived Wednesday afternoon to Grant County International Airport in Moses Lake, Washington, where over the next months four jetliners will complete their planned 2,500-hour flight test campaign.

The Flight Test Aircraft 1 (FTA-1) (JA21MJ • MSN 10001) landed at 17:44 local, after a ferry flight from its base in Nagoya, with technical stops in Russia and Alaska.

The flight crew was comprised by three pilots, three aircraft engineers and an engineer from P&W. (Credits: Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp.)

The arrival of the aircraft was delayed a month after two previous attempts were aborted due to issues related to the monitoring function of the left air management system.

MRJ testing will be spread all across the US, based in Washington with the Seattle Engineering Center and Moses Lake Flight Test Center at the base airport. Flight testing will also take place in Roswell, New Mexico  for Special Runway Testing tests, Gunnison, Colorado for High Altitude takeoffs and landings trials, and the McKinley Climatic Laboratory in Florida for Extreme Weather Environment tests.

FTA-1 is the first MRJ aircraft to arrive to the United States. (Credits: MItsubishi Aircraft Corp.)
FTA-1 is the first MRJ aircraft to arrive to the United States. (Credits: MItsubishi Aircraft Corp.)

In Seattle, 150 employees from local engineering firm AeroTEC and Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation will be supporting the flight test and certification. Meanwhile, at Moses Lake, about 250 staff will work directly on the flight test aircraft.

The MRJ90 made its first flight in November 2015. Although Japan has gained relevance in the last years as a major aerospace industry player, its experience in aircraft manufacturing is not a novelty. The last passenger airliner built by Japan was the turboprop YS-11, which had just limited success with just 182 aircraft built since its rollout in 1962.

Last June, during the Farnborough Airshow, Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation (MAC) confirmed that the MRJ is on track for certification and entry-into-service (EIS) by mid 2018. The target was set in December of last year when the airframer announced a one-year delay, largely attributed to changes in the design, manufacturing process and parts.

Conceived for regional markets, the MRJ offers two variants. A 78-seat MRJ70, and a 92-seat MRJ90. These aircraft are aimed to break into a market segment widely dominated by Embraer and Bombardier.

To date, the MRJ program has logged 447 orders and commitments. This year, Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation has logged an order for 10 MRJ90s (plus 10 options) from Swedish lessor Rockton, the first European customer for the type, and 20 aircraft from Aerolease Aviation. Currently, the airframer is in conversations with Iran for 20 aircraft, valued at $1.1 billion at list prices.