apan is set to make its mark in the skies with its first new commercial jet for over 50 years, the Mitsubishi Regional Jet, aka the MRJ.
Since Japan’s last commercial passenger plane was flying routes across the nation, the country has lead the world in high-speed rail, established a significant aerospace industry but taken a back seat when it comes to original aircraft development.
That’s set to change with the narrow-bodied MRJ.
It was rolled out at Saturday’s launch event, complete with a stirring taiko drum performance, at the Komaki Minami plant in Nagoya, where one of Mitsubishi’s most famous aircraft was developed: the A6M “Zero” Second World War fighter plane.
The last commercial Japanese plane to operate was Mitsubishi’s YS-11, a turbo-propel aircraft built between 1962 and 1972 that it was hoped would revive the Japanese aviation industry. Only 180 were sold, 99 of them in Japan.
The project to develop the MRJ began in 2008. Speaking at the event Hideake Omiya, chairman of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, said numerous problems and obstacles had to overcome during the plane’s development.
“We had to be prepared to bear the risk that could jeopardize our company’s foundation. Going forward this jet will fly to every corner of the world. This is the moment of dreams come true.”
With a pointed nose that wouldn’t be out of place on a bullet train, composites are used in the construction of the MRJ that will be powered by two Pratt & Whitney PW1200G engines. The jet will be available in two iterations, the 70-seat MRJ70 and 90-seat MRJ90.
ANA is the launch customer for the four seats abreast plane, with 15 firm orders.
At the roll-out event on Saturday Shinichiro Ito, president and CEO of ANA said the company is “determined to help ensure the MRJ becomes an aircraft loved and appreciated by our passengers.”
Five MRJs will begin test flights in the second quarter of 2015, with 2017 the planned launch date for commercial operations.
Going up against Embraer and Bombardier in the narrow-bodied jet sector, Mitsubishi say that six airlines have over 400 MRJ planes on order or with options to purchase: ANA, JAL, Air Mandalay, Sky West, Trans States, and a relaunched Eastern Air Lines.