The first test aircraft of the Mitsubishi Regional Jet program, Japan’s first domestically-produced commercial passenger jetliner in five decades, took off from Nagoya Airport a little after 0930 local time on Wednesday.
Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation said the aircraft “confirmed its basic characteristics and functionality in ascent, descent and turning in airspace off the Pacific coast” during its 90-minute test flight.
“Operational performance of the MRJ was far better than expected. We had a significantly comfortable flight,” said chief test pilot Captain Yoshiyuki Yasumura, who was the pilot flying.
Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation president Hiromichi Morimoto added: “The MRJ successfully took to the sky today thanks to ongoing cooperation and support from all members involved.”
“We will make our utmost efforts towards type certificate acquisition, committing all our resources to develop and produce the finest regional jet aircraft to enter commercial service in 2017.”
The aircraft, with its distinctive pointed nose, is powered by Pratt & Whitney PW1200 geared turbofan engines and available in either the the 90-seat MRJ90 or 70-seat MRJ70 models.
To date, the MRJ has received 223 firm orders, 160 options and 24 purchase rights for the aircraft from the likes of ANA, which is the launch customer, Japan Airlines, Eastern Air Lines Group, US-based Skywest, Trans States Holdings and Air Mandalay. The program is about three years behind schedule.
The MRJ competes with Bombardier’s CSeries and Embraer’s E-jet family in the less-than-100-seats market.
Mitsubishi Aircraft said flight testing in the US was due to start in the second quarter of 2016 at the company’s MRJ base at Grant County International Airport at Moses Lake in Washington State, with first delivery was scheduled for the second quarter of 2017.
There will be five flight test aircraft and two ground test aircraft during the test program.
The MRJ is Japan’s locally-produced first commercial passenger aircraft since the country stopped making the YS-11 in 1974. Only 182 YS-11s were made.
The country’s economy, trade and industry minister Motoo Hayashi described the first flight as the “dawn of a new era for Japan’s aviation industry”.
“It will drive Japan’s growth,” the minister said in a statement.