Assembly of the Mitsubishi MRJ regional jet started on 5 April, with riveting work starting at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

MHI started riveting work on the frame structure around the emergency escape hatch for crew in the aircraft's cockpit roof, says Mitsubishi Aircraft.

"[The] start of assembly work indicates that the MRJ project to develop Japan's first passenger jet is progressing steadily and firmly as scheduled," it adds.

MRJ, ©Mitsubishi Aircraft
 © Mitsubishi Aircraft

The MRJ 90 is scheduled to make its first flight in the second quarter of 2012, with first delivery to launch customer All Nippon Airways in the first quarter of 2014. The MRJ 70 variant will have its first flight in 2013.

Production of individual aircraft parts of the MRJ began last autumn.

MHI, which is responsible for manufacturing major parts of the MRJ including the fuselage, wings and empennage, will also take charge of the Pratt & Whitney PW1217G-powered aircraft's final assembly.

Meanwhile, Mitsubishi Aircraft has set up a wholly owned subsidiary in Amsterdam to act as the sales base for the MRJ in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

The new subsidiary will begin operations on 1 May, says Mitsubishi Aircraft.

"Europe is the second largest market for regional jet aircraft, following the United States. The new regional sales base allows Mitsubishi Aircraft to conduct on-the-ground sales activities to customers without any time differences," it adds.

The subsidiary will also cover the Middle Eastern and African markets.

"We have many potential customers showing strong interest in the MRJ in the European region. We expect establishing this new sales office will greatly enhance our presence in the region, resulting in new orders," says Mitsubishi Aircraft president Hideo Egawa.

Mitsubishi Aircraft says it expects a total market for 5,000 regional jets in the next 20 years, with 30% of this coming from Europe.

So far Mitsubishi has orders for 65 MRJs, with All Nippon Airways taking 15 MRJ 90s and US regional carrier Trans States Airlines 50, a mixture of both variants.

Source: Flight International