Monday, January 23, 2017

Mitsubishi MRJ FTA-3 takes off from Nagoya Airport for its first flight in November 2016.
(Photo: Mitsubishi Aircraft)

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) has delayed first delivery of the MRJ90 from mid-2018 to mid-2020 due to what the Japanese manufacturer characterizes as revisions to certain systems and electrical configurations to meet the latest certification requirements. There have already been four other significant delays to the MRJ90 program, the most recent of which moved planned certification from the second quarter of 2017 to the second quarter of 2018.

MHI revealed the latest delay ahead of a press conference held in Japan early on Monday and a pair of planned follow-up briefings scheduled for later Monday and Tuesday. If this proves the last schedule setback, the MRJ would reach the market some seven years later than originally planned at program launch in 2008.

MHI said it established a so-called business promotion committee chaired by its president and CEO, Shunichi Miyanaga, to oversee the program as of last November 28.

“Since the historic MRJ first flight in November 2015, we have made significant progress in both engineering and test, and now three aircraft are in flight test in the United States,” MHI said in a statement. “Going forward, under the MRJ Business Promotion Committee’s oversight, we will continue to make prompt decisions and remain firmly committed to the development of the MRJ to offer our customers an aircraft with world-class performance and compatibility with latest industry certifications.”

The MRJ program has now flown four flying prototypes, three of which participate in trials at Grant County International Airport in Moses Lake, Washington, where the company plans to conduct most of the flight testing for certification. Processing of flight-test data takes place at Mitsubishi’s engineering center in Seattle, established in August 2015 in collaboration with locally based AeroTec specifically to administer MRJ testing in the U.S.

All Nippon Airways remains the program’s launch customer. However, even before the last delay, it remained unclear when the two customers that account for most of the MRJ’s backlog—SkyWest Airlines and Trans States Airlines of the U.S.—would take their first MRJ90s. In fact, the MRJ90 still does not fit within the weight limitations stipulated by pilot union scope clauses among the big three U.S. network carriers, leaving SkyWest and Trans States unable to commit to firm delivery dates. Meanwhile, Embraer has moved back its schedule for entry into service of the new E175-E2 by about a year, from 2020 to 2021, for the same reason.

Most recently, Delta Air Lines pilots on December 1 ratified an agreement that maintains the 86,000 pound mtow and 76-seat capacity limits on airplanes operated by their regional affiliates until 2020. A contract extension that maintains similar restrictions reached with United Airlines pilots in January runs until 2019, while American Airlines’ contract becomes amendable in 2020.

(Gregory Polek - AINOnline News)

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