Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation has denied reports the delivery schedule of its Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) program has been delayed.
Over the weekend, news outlets including Bloomberg and The Japan Times reported the MRJ program would be delayed for a fifth time, with first delivery to launch customer ANA pushed back beyond the current mid-2018 target due to technical issues.
However, Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation, which is a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, said in a statement on October 3 “no such announcement had been made”.
“At present, no decision has been made to change the delivery schedule,” the company said.
“We are moving forward with MRJ development to achieve both safety and superior performance as we overcome issues one by one while devoting the most careful attention to safety.
“When issues arise in the development process, we take appropriate steps, including informing and consulting with the authorities and customers.
“If any decisions are made in the future on important items to be made public including development schedule, we will announce them promptly.”
The announcement followed the successful ferry flight of the MRJ’s first flight test aircraft (FTA-1) from its Nagoya facility to the Moses Lake Flight Test Centre just outside Seattle in Washington State.
The ferry flight commenced from Nagoya Airfield, where FTA-1 took off at 1328 local time on September 26 and arrived at Grant County International Airport in Washington at 1744 local time on September 28, having flown via Sapporo, Yelizovo (Russia) and Anchorage (Alaska).
“Mitsubishi Aircraft is committed to carrying out frequent, multiple flight tests in the US to accelerate the development of the MRJ toward type certificate acquisition in 2018,” the company said on September 29.
In addition to its Moses Lake facility at Grant County International Airport, the MRJ flight test program will also be supported by Mitsubishi’s Seattle engineering centre and its operations back in Japan.
The company twice aborted the ferry flight of the MRJ’s first flight test aircraft from Nagoya to Moses Lake in September after “anomalies were detected in the signals generated by sensors monitoring air management systems”.
It was the latest setback for the program, which has suffered numerous delays in recent times.
The MRJ, which competes with Bombardier’s CSeries and Embraer’s E-jet family in the less-than-100-seats market, made its first flight on November 12 2015.
However, Mitsubishi suspended the flight test program shortly after the maiden flight for three months due to the need to complete some structural work and software upgrades on the airframe.
And in December 2015, Mitsubishi delayed first delivery of the MRJ – Japan’s first locally-produced commercial passenger aircraft since the country stopped making the YS-11 in 1974 – by a year to the second quarter of 2018.
To date, the MRJ has received 233 firm orders, 170 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.
Mitsubishi planned to have four test aircraft at its Moses Lake facility as part of efforts to receive certification of the MRJ from US regulators.