Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation’s first flight test aircraft of its Regional Jet (MRJ) program will stay on the ground at its Nagoya facility while engineers investigate the aircraft’s air conditioning systems.
Late last week, the company twice aborted the ferry flight of the MRJ’s first flight test aircraft from Nagoya to its Moses Lake Flight Test Centre in Washington State, after “anomalies were detected in the signals generated by sensors monitoring air management systems”.
As a consequence of those alerts, the company chose to turn the aircraft around shortly after takeoff and return to Nagoya on two consecutive days.
“Two air management systems, left and right, are installed in the aircraft, and in these events, a malfunction was detected in sensors monitoring the air management systems on the left side,” Mitsubishi said in a statement on August 30.
“The air management systems operated properly during the flights, however, considering that the long flights are to the United States, the decision was made to take all possible measures to fly the MRJ in a perfect condition.
“We will work with related parties to promptly move forward with the ferry flight, after completing the inspection and necessary measures.”
It is the latest setback for the program, which has suffered numerous delays in recent times.
The aircraft, with its distinctive pointed nose, is powered by Pratt & Whitney PW1200 geared turbofan engines and available in either the the 90-seat MRJ90 or 70-seat MRJ70 models.
The MRJ, which competes with Bombardier’s CSeries and Embraer’s E-jet family in the less-than-100-seats market, made its first flight on November 12 2015.
However, Mitsubishi suspended the flight test program shortly after the maiden flight for three months due to the need to complete some structural work and software upgrades on the airframe.
And in December 2015, Mitsubishi delayed first delivery of the MRJ – Japan’s first locally-produced commercial passenger aircraft since the country stopped making the YS-11 in 1974 – by a year to the second quarter of 2018.
To date, the MRJ has received 233 firm orders, 170 options and 24 purchase rights for the aircraft from the likes of ANA, which is the launch customer, Japan Airlines, Eastern Air Lines Group, US-based Skywest, Trans States Holdings and Air Mandalay.
Mitsubishi planned to have four test aircraft at its Moses Lake facility as part of efforts to receive certification of the MRJ from US regulators.