MRJ Mitsubishi Regional Jet First Flight

NAGOYA, Japan—After a successful first flight of its regional jet on Wednesday,Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. is hoping to step up sales against competition from established aircraft makers and upstarts.

The gull-nosed Mitsubishi Regional Jet, the most prominent aircraft to carry the Mitsubishi name since the Zero fighter of World War II, flew over Japan and the Pacific coast for nearly an hour and a half. Escorted by Japanese military planes, it reached speeds of up to 280 kilometers an hour (174 miles an hour) and altitudes of up to 15,000 feet.

‘’Today was very windy,” but the plane remained mostly stable, chief test pilot Yoshiyuki Yasumura said later at a news conference. “During the approach it swayed a bit, but we were able to address this.’’

The jet being developed by a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Heavy is designed for short-haul flights, a market in which it will compete against Embraer SA of Brazil and BombardierInc. of Canada.

Ascend Flightglobal, a consulting firm, estimates that carriers will order 4,360 regional jets through 2034 valued at around $135 billion. It predicts that Mitsubishi will capture 27% of that market in unit and value terms.

Now that Mitsubishi has demonstrated that the plane can fly, airlines “that have taken a wait-and-see approach can negotiate acquisition of the aircraft with increased confidence,” said Rob Morris, head of consultancy at Ascend Flightglobal in London.

Mitsubishi has touted the aircraft as offering greater fuel efficiency and comfort than existing regional jets.

It has plenty of company in seeking airlines’ business. Embraer and Bombardier are upgrading their airliners. Sukhoi Civil Aircraft Co. of Russia makes a regional jet and Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China is developing one.

The Mitsubishi Regional Jet will come in versions seating roughly 70 and 90 passengers, with a list price of $46.3 million and $47.3 million, respectively. Mitsubishi said demand will be driven by airlines moving up from 50-seat planes or scaling back from larger ones.

Hiromichi Morimoto, president of Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp., the unit that is developing the aircraft, said Wednesday the company is considering a third version that would seat 100 passengers—pushing it closer in size to the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320, which seat over 100 passengers.

Bombardier has been focusing on developing larger aircraft to compete against the 737 and A320 series.

At Wednesday’s maiden flight of the Mitsubishi jet, hundreds of reporters, business leaders and air-travel enthusiasts gathered at Nagoya Airport, reflecting the jet’s status as a project of national interest for Japan. Minority investors include Toyota MotorCorp., and a range of Japanese companies are supplying parts.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga called it “the dawn of a new era for Japan’s aviation industry,’’ saying the government would help promote the jet.

The aircraft was originally supposed to have its first test flight more than five years ago, but the program suffered a series of delays. Mitsubishi said it would deliver the first aircraft in 2017 to All Nippon Airways Co. The carrier has ordered 15 of the planes and taken options for 10 more.

Other customers include Trans States Holdings, Sky West Inc., Eastern Air Lines Group Inc., Air Mandalay Ltd. and Japan Airlines Co. In all, Mitsubishi said it has firm orders for 223 planes and options or purchase rights for 184 more.

The aircraft still needs to go through thousands of hours of flight testing and regulatory certification steps in Japan and the U.S.

The Mitsubishi jet, powered by Pratt & Whitney engines, is the first commercial airliner built in Japan since the propeller-driven YS-11, which was made by a consortium of Japanese companies in the 1960s and 70s.

Mitsubishi Heavy makes aircraft for Japan’s military and it has been a major subcontractor on commercial airplanes like the Boeing 787. “The Japanese aviation industry has been dependent on government demand, mainly the defense ministry, but now it has entered the phase of doing business with the private sector,’’ said aerospace analyst Yoshitomo Aoki.

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China unveils first Comac C919 passenger aircraft challenging Boeing and Airbus

China on Monday unveiled its first homegrown large passenger plane, fulfilling the Communist giant’s long-held dream of challenging the dominance of western aviation giants like Boeing and Airbus in the global commercial aviation market.

“The roll out of the first C919 aircraft marks a significant milestone in the development of China’s first indigenous aircraft,” Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China (COMAC) chairman Jin Zhuanglong said amid much fanfare at the launch ceremony here in China’s gleaming financial hub.

The C919 — a twin-engine, narrow-body aircraft seating up to 174 people — is similar in size to the Airbus 320 and Boeing 737 series of jets, long the workhorses for airlines around the world.

With a flying range of up to 5,555 kilometres (3,451 miles), it is designed to compete head-to-head with its Airbus and Boeing rivals, and said to easily cover popular business and leisure routes from China such as Shanghai to Singapore and Beijing to Bangkok. The aircraft will make its first test flight next year, Jin said, indicating that the plane will miss the original deadline of this year. When the plane is cleared for commercial use, is expected to compete with the updated Airbus 320 and Boeing’s new-generation 737, state-run Xinhua news agency reported. At the ceremony, shown live on national television, the aircraft — sporting a largely white fuselage with a blue wavy stripe and a green tail — was towed beneath a banner with the phrase “a dream takes off” and past a huge Chinese national flag. Chinese President Xi Jinping, congratulating Chinese aviation experts for their dedication, asked them to make careful preparation for a maiden flight. Xi, also General Secretary of the ruling Communist Party of China, said in an instruction that safety and quality of the aircraft should be prioritised during the preparation for the first flight. With its maiden flight scheduled for next year and at least another three years of test flights, it will take some time before the single-aisle jet can ply commercial air routes the world over, the report said. The C919 was unveiled after China signed a $17 billion contract with European aerospace consortium Airbus to buy 130 aircraft on October 29 during the visit of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. China is the world’s largest civil aviation market, with its 21 largest airports seeing annual throughput exceeding 10 million passengers. China is expected to add 6,330 new aircraft worth a whopping $950 billion to its commercial fleet by 2034, according to estimates from Boeing. According to Airbus forecasts, China will need over 5,300 new passenger aircraft and freighters from 2014 to 2033, with a total market value of $820 billion. It represents 17 per cent of the world total demand for over 31,000 new aircraft in the next 20 years.


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