MRJ Program’s Latest Snag Linked to 2009 FAA Mandate
Mitsubishi Aircraft’s failure to properly forecast the effects of new U.S. Federal Aviation Administration procedures introduced in 2009 to validate regulatory compliance of production processes led to the latest delay of the MRJ90, according to company executives. The new system–called organization designation authorization (ODA)–replaced a process to certify airplanes in which a designated engineering representative (DER) and a designated manufacturing inspection representative (DMIR) validated compliance based upon a test or analysis on a part after its manufacture, explained Mitsubishi Aircraft director and head of sales Yugo Fukuhara.
The ODA system requires documentation and approval of all internal design and manufacturing processes in advance. “Under this system we need to build a new process of compliance not only for ourselves but also for all partner components, so we needed more time to build this process together with our partners,” said Fukuhara. “Of course, we knew this system conceptually, but [in practice] we needed more time than expected.”
The first program fully governed under the ODA system from the start of its development, the MRJ has now encountered three major delays, the first of which happened in 2009, when the company moved its first-flight target from late 2011 to the second quarter of 2012 to accommodate changes to the design of the cabin and the wing box.
Next, in April last year, the company revealed that its failure to properly document engineering and production processes forced Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to remanufacture several parts and delay the program for roughly a year-and-a-half. All told, with this latest setback, the MRJ has suffered at least four years of delays.
The Japanese airframe integrator now expects to fly the MRJ in the second quarter of 2015 and deliver the first production example two years later. Previous schedules called for first delivery to launch customer All Nippon Airways between the summer of 2015 and the first quarter of 2016.
Fukuhara said MHI has started assembly of the first test airframes in preparation for ground and flight tests. The company and its partners have produced some 90 percent of the parts for the first flight-test airplane, production schedules for which call for final assembly to begin at MHI’s Komaki South plant in the fall, he noted.
During June’s Paris Air Show, Fukuhara detailed the flight-test plan, which calls for some 2,500 flight hours over the course of close to two years. He said the first aircraft, MSN10001, will test basic flight characteristics, possible expansion of the altitude and airspeed envelopes, major systems and runway performance, including hot and high analysis at a still undetermined location in the U.S.