Mitsubishi completes preliminary design review for MRJ

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Mitsubishi Aircraft has finished its preliminary design review for its Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) as it moves towards completing the critical design review by year-end.

Completion of the preliminary design reviewed occurred in April, as Mitsubishi used aerodynamic loads gathered from wind tunnel testing to establish the level of thickness for aircraft spar and skin.

During a programme update earlier this week at the US Regional Airline Association convention Mitsubishi Aircraft executive vice president Junichi Miyakawa said once the company completes critical design review it will move into the aircraft manufacturing phase. For flight testing, Mitsubishi plans to use four prototype aircraft.

Mitsubishi's planned use of composites in the horizontal and vertical tail sections and empennage should account for an overall composite content of 30%. That compares with a 46% composite content on Bombardier's new CSeries aircraft. First deliveries of both the MRJ and CSeries - powered by the Pratt & Whitney PW1000G - are scheduled for 2013. Miyakawa estimates completion of the first composite structure for the MRJ should happen sometime this year.

Launch customer ANA has lingered as the sole MRJ operator since it signed an agreement for 15 firm orders last year. Miyakawa says in the near term Mitsubishi is focusing sales campaigns on European operators of BAe 146 and Fokker aircraft as he says the company believes the major markets for the aircraft are in Europe and the USA.

Miyakawa reiterates Mitsubishi's previous 1000 aircraft sales target for the MRJ. Previously the company has said the break-even level for the MRJ was 300-400 aircraft.

In tandem with work on the MRJ's critical design phase Mitsubishi is crafting its customer support strategy, and has two major candidates in both Europe and US as potential support centres. Candidates in both regions should also be firmed up by year-end.

Asked about a larger aircraft Miyakawa says for the time being Mitsubishi is "targeting the regional market below 100-seats".