Aug. 3, 2015, © Leeham Co. Mitsubishi is just a few months away from beginning flight testing on the first commercial airplane designed and built in
Japan since the NAMC YS-11 in the 1960s.
The 60 passenger turbo prop had its first flight in 1962 and entered service three years later with ANA. Only 182 were built, and it had a surprisingly wide customer base in the primary and secondary markets. Google images has a nice montage of the operators, which spanned the globe.
The Mitsubishi MRJ 90 as yet doesn’t have wide acceptance. There are about 200 firm orders and about an equal number of options, but the customer base is thin: 100 of the orders and 100 of the options come from the USA’s SkyWest Airlines and 50+50 are from the USA’s Trans States Airlines. All Nippon Airlines orders 15 and Japan Air Lines ordered 32. Air Mandalay ordered six and the new Eastern Airlines, a start-up carrier, ordered 20.
And that’s it.
The MRJ is a 2×2 passenger cabin configuration with comfortable 18-inch wide seats. The passenger experience should be similar to the Embraer E-Jet that’s been in service since 2004 and better than the Bombardier CRJ Series, which is a cramped cabin.
The MRJ is two years late. The first flight is now scheduled for October and entry-into-service in 2017. But with the vast majority of the orders coming from US regional airlines that contract for US majors, there’s just one problem: the MRJ-90 exceeds the allowable airplane weight in the pilot contracts permitting regional flying on behalf of the majors. This is under what’s called the Scope Clause.
Competitors Embraer and Bombardier are quick to point out that the MRJ-90 is too heavy. Bombardier thinks this will help sales of its CRJ-900/1000. EMB acknowledges its E-175 E2 suffers the same fate but the E-175 E1 currently in production doesn’t. If the Scope Clause isn’t modified by the time the E-175 E2 is ready to enter service in 2020, the E1 production could continue.
If Scope isn’t relaxed, it’s possible the MRJ-70 could be substituted for the MRJ-90, it’s said.
Some clarity should be forthcoming today and tomorrow. Mitsubishi is hosting a day-and-a-half press event here in Seattle and in Central Washington at Moses Lake to show off its Seattle Engineering Center and its Flight Test Center in Moses Lake. The MRJ fight testing will be done mostly in the USA. Japan’s air space is crowded and air space over the Sea of Japan is claimed by China, a claim rejected by all other countries. Central Washington, and other sites selected by Mitsubishi for flight testing, have wide-open air space. Moses Lake was used for four decades by Japan Air Lines for pilot training, most recently for Boeing 747s. It’s used today by Boeing for flight testing of 747-8s and 787s.
Looking at Mitsubishi’s choice of Moses Lake as one of its USA test sites from my parochial Washington State perspective, this selection was a great win for the State. It’s an example of looking Beyond Boeing, a position I advocated wearing my consultant’s hat way back in 2009 in a speech at the Governor’s Aerospace Summit in Spokane (WA). It’s also what I advocated the following year as a consultant to the state’s Department of Commerce.
Looking Beyond Boeing is vital to the state. Boeing continues to move jobs out of state even as it takes billions of dollars in tax breaks. Boeing likes to point out that it employs more people in Washington than any other company, including Mircosoft and Amazon, and this is true. But Boeing has frequently threatened to move jobs out of state if it didn’t get what it wanted and after taking $8.7bn in tax breaks from the state as an inducement to locate the 777X assembly line and wing production plant here, officials turned around and transferred some 4,000 jobs out of state. Boeing also refused to guarantee jobs as part of the 777X tax package, and no wonder: the plant will be automated as never before (which, from a macro viewpoint, is a good thing), requiring fewer hands-on touch labor jobs.
Boeing’s corporate history is using jobs as a threat. Jim McNerney, non-executive chairman of Boeing, once again has threatened to move jobs outside the US if Boeing doesn’t get its way for reauthorization of the ExIm Bank. He renewed the threat last week.
I am a strong supporter of renewing ExIm Bank authority and, like the companies affected by its closure, cannot understand how right-wing Republicans and Tea Party members don’t see the benefits to US jobs, exports and the balance of trade ExIm provides, nor the competitive disadvantages by its closure. But I have to say, I am really tired of Boeing making constant threats to move jobs (out of Washington State, out of the US) if it doesn’t get what it wants. In this case, he’s not alone. GE subsequently revealed it might ship $10bn in business and jobs overseas if ExIm remains dead.
But if anyone thinks these right wingers and Tea Party members will cower before McNerney and GE, think again. The days when what’s good for the country vs adhering to dogma are long gone.
This is why Washington State must continue to look Beyond Boeing to maintain and grow its aerospace industrial and supply base. Getting Mitsubishi here for flight testing is a good step, but it’s also finite.
I’ll have reports from the Mitsubishi events tomorrow and Wednesday.
And then there’s more
I didn’t know Boeing was into submarines. Take a look at this story.