After several delays and redesigns, including a major shift away from plastic laminates and carbon fibre composites in 2009 and changes to satisfy potential customers, production of the new aircraft could commence in early Oct-2010. Mitsubishi completed the design review for the MRJ earlier this month, and the company is proceeding with the production drawing phase, which will include more detailed parts design.
Just 15% of the aircraft will be produced from composites, compared with a projected 50% when the programme was launched. Switching to aluminium alloys does make it easier for Mitsubishi to stretch the aircraft, with a 100-seat version due to complement the existing 70 to 80-seat MRJ70 and 82 to 96-seat MRJ90.
Once production is underway, Mitsubishi expects a steady ramp up, projecting output of six aircraft per month within four to five years of launch. Speaking to Reuters, Mitsubishi Aircraft President Hideo Egawa said that once that production level is achieved the programme should be profitable within six to seven years.
The manufacturer expects to sell more than 1,000 MRJs over the next 20 years. A 30% slice of those aircraft are expected to go to European carriers and 40% to North American customers. Asia Pacific orders are expected to account for just 20% of production.
The are 65 firm orders for the MRJ, with 15 ordered by All Nippon Airways and 50 ordered by Trans States Holdings. There are another 60 aircraft on option. Orders have been few and far between, with a disappointing Farnborough Air Show this year attributed to some of the delays to the aircraft.
However, Mitsubishi Aircraft has confirmed it is in talks with five to six potential customers for the new aircraft. The aircraft inhabits a crowded marketplace, taking on not only the existing Bombardier and Embraer regional jets, but also new aircraft in the form of the (recently delayed) Comac ARJ-21, Bombardier CSeries and stretched CRJ1000 and the Suhkoi/Alenia Aeronautica SuperJet 100.
The MRJ is powered by the Pratt & Whitney PW1000G engine family, also powering the CSeries and the new Irkut MS-21. Mitsubishi is confident that the combination of new aircraft and engine can offer efficiency enhancements of up to 20% over existing regional jet designs and attract strong ordering.
The first flight of the aircraft is scheduled for 2Q2012. Initial deliveries to launch customer, All Nippon Airways, is expected in the 1Q2014.
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