Mitsubishi’s MRJ test flying making good progress

By Bjorn Fehrm in Tokyo

May 18, 2016, ©. Leeham Co: Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation (MAC) announced that their MRJ flight test program is now going well. Mitsubishi presented the status update at the International Society of Transport Aircraft Traders conference (ISTAT 2016 Asia) in Tokyo.

Mitsubishi RJ

Figure 1. Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) during flight testing. Source: Mitsubishi.

Mitsubishi Aircraft rocked the confidence of the market with announcing a delay in their program of over a year before Christmas. At the same time, MAC also announced that they will rebuild their test aircraft as they had seen that the original design did not meet ultimate load criteria.

As presented in one of my Friday Corners, that announcement was being too forthcoming. Other OEMs would not have informed the market of the minor modifications needed to make the aircraft able to withstand ultimate load (150% of the highest load the aircraft should ever see in service).

MAC’s Director of Strategic Marketing, Hideyuki Kamiya, gave an update of the flight test program at the conference and later answered some specific questions from LNC on the sidelines of the conference.

MRJ Flight testing progress
The first test aircraft has been flying since the February grounding for reconfiguration/reinforcement. To date, 23 flight test missions have been flown. The second flight test aircraft is expected to join the first aircraft end of May. An additional three aircraft will join the flight test program, with the last being a full cabin aircraft carrying the launch customer All Nippon Airways’ (ANA) livery, Figure 2.

SAS2016 MRJ Press Briefing_FTA-4&5

Figure 2. MRJ test aircraft no 4 and 5 being readied for flight test in MAC’s Nagoya plant. Source: Mitsubishi.

All but one aircraft will leave for the MAC Moses Lake (WA) test station before the end of the year. Testing at Moses Lake is said to employ up to 300 persons when in full swing early 2017. Certification of the aircraft is foreseen for spring 2018 with first delivery scheduled for mid-2018.

The first test aircraft has opened the flight test envelope to a highest speed of M0.65. The aircraft is designed for a maximum Mach of 0.78, so we asked Kamiya if that was a limitation of the test aircraft. He said “No, no, it is just according to our flight test plan. Everything is now progressing as planned, we go to higher speeds later in the program .”

Kamiya described how a number of  important tests have been passed. The aircraft has shut down one engine in flight and restarted it. It has also done the same with the aircraft’s APU.

The aircraft has also been flown to stall speeds with actual stall test to start later in 2016. All safety features of the aircraft have been tested, such as deployment of the emergency Ram Air Turbine generator (RAT), simulating that the aircraft’s electrical system had stopped working.

Highest Flight Level to-date is FL350. Recent flights have been done in full Fly-By-Wire (FBW) functionality, i.e., Normal mode. This is early in the program and indicates a good maturity of the advanced FBW software (it’s a full feedback digital FBW). Flight test results to date have shown that the aircraft behaves according to expectations, according to Kamiya.

The reason for the large delay that was announced in November of last year was due to a change in flight testing philosophy. It was decided to change the way to flight test after discussions with the ex-Boeing personnel that joined MAC’s Seattle engineering and Moses Lake test centers. The experienced engineers convinced MAC that they should run each test program in full on the ground in a simulated flight before doing the actual test flights. After the ground tests, any mis-functions should be corrected and re-tested. The final flight test should then be used to validate the results of the ground tests, not to find the faults.

This takes more time than a classical test program but will ultimately bring a better and more mature aircraft to the customers. It will be worth the wait, according to Kamiya.

9 Comments on “Mitsubishi’s MRJ test flying making good progress

  1. Bjorn, thanks for this fine report. Still, some questions on the MRJ, if you please: side stick or yoke?; stick shaker?; why five test articles (shouldn’t three be enough?); is there a static airframe, and will it be tested till destruction?; max service altitude?; and, shouldn’t a MAC ML staff of 25 or so be sufficient? Thanks so much, MO

    • Hi MontanaOsprey,

      as can be seen in John’s pictures it’s yoke. Stick shaker I will come back on. Five test aircraft probably has to do with time, the more the faster cert flying is completed. There’s a static and a fatigue test frame, don’t know if it will be tested to destruction. Max FL is 390. For the Moses Lake staffing you would have to ask MAC but it will do all the flight test evaluation there as well as servicing and modifying the test aircraft.

  2. Interesting to see the dedicated door for the dedicated luggage area on the photo. The main difference between the MRJ and E2’s.

    Whats’ more efficient additional fuselage length or more cross section?

    – MHI probably couldn’t go 135 seats with this cross section, Embraer can.

    – Maybe MRJ has better efficiency around 90 seats, but needs special loading/ unloading equipment. The luggage area/ door is high.

  3. And congratulations to Sweden with the rollout of the Gripen E!

    • Congratulations for moving the wheel bay ? It was always a great plane, pity Saab got out of the airliner business as they were good planes too. For some reason Saab is now in the submarine business ??

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