Japan’s First Home-Made Jet Back in Hangar After Aborted Tests

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The Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) following its first flight at Nagoya Airport in November 2015.

Photographer: Akio Kon/Bloomberg
  • Mitsubishi planes being checked again for airconditioner snag
  • MRJ, beset by delays, seeks to challenge Embraer, Bombardier

After two aborted test flights in as many days following a faulty air-conditioning system, Japan’s first locally built passenger jet was back for checks and fixes amid delays to a program aimed at challenging the dominance of Brazil’s Embraer SA and Canada’s Bombardier Inc.

Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp., the builder of the Mitsubishi Regional Jet, will make a decision on resuming its test flight to the U.S. after the problem has been fixed, Spokesman Kenichi Takemori said by telephone from Nagoya Monday. The company has delayed delivery of the aircraft at least four times. ANA Holdings Inc. is scheduled to receive the first MRJ in the middle of 2018.

Mitsubishi Aircraft, a unit of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., is trying to break the regional-jet duopoly of Embraer and Bombardier. Mitsubishi’s MRJ, which can seat as many as 92 people, is getting a boost as Bombardier focuses on building CSeries jets that will be able to carry as many as 160 passengers, rather than renew its lineup of planes with fewer than 100 seats.

Mitsubishi Heavy shares rose 2.9 percent to 429.70 yen as of 11:17 a.m. in Tokyo, paring this year’s loss to 18 percent. Japan’s benchmark Topix index has declined 15 percent in 2016.  

The air-conditioner issue isn’t likely to cause another postponement, said Kenjin Hotta, an analyst at Macquarie Capital Securities (Japan) Ltd. “It sounds like the planes will be on their way sooner or later,” he said. “I am not terribly concerned.”

Getting Certification

The plane is the first of four that the firm plans to fly to the U.S. for testing as the company works toward getting certification in the world’s largest economy. It returned to Nagoya after aborting the trip mid-flight as it headed to the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.

The consecutive disrupted journeys underscore the challenges in building and testing new passenger aircraft, which can bedevil even long-established planemakers such as Boeing Co. and Airbus Group SE.

The aircraft, which made its first flight in November last year, won its first order from a European company in February. Mitsubishi had 407 orders for its new aircraft, including options and purchase rights, as of the end of last year, and its two biggest customers are based in the U.S.

The MRJ is also Japan’s first locally built passenger plane in more than 50 years. The country’s last domestically produced commercial aircraft was the YS-11, a turboprop made by Nihon Aircraft Manufacturing Corp., a consortium that included Mitsubishi Heavy, Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd. and Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. Production was stopped in 1974 after 182 of the planes were sold.

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