Updated to clarify schedule of flight test aircrafts' arrival in Moses Lake.

Mitsubishi Aircraft says that customers for its MRJ regional jet are understanding in regard to the challenges the type suffered in transit to the type’s US testing facility.

“We have been careful to share the status of development with customers at all times,” says Yugo Fukuhara, vice president and general manager of sales and marketing at the company. “Unfortunately we failed the ferry flight twice, just due to minor things, but we fixed the issue and explained this to customers…this a brand new programme, so there will be challenges.

Fukuhara remained committed to the company’s plan to deliver the type in mid-2018 to launch customer All Nippon Airways. He spoke to FlightGlobal at the Japan Aerospace show in Tokyo.

In early October, it emerged that Mitsubishi had spoken to ANA about a “risk of delay”, but the Japanese airframer stressed that no decisions had been made on changing the delivery schedule. This followed two failed efforts to get the first MRJ90 flight test aircraft (FTA-1) to the jet’s Moses Lake testing facility in Washington state.

Fukuhara says learnings from the first flight, where a faulty sensor caused a “minor issue,” should ease the passage of the second, third, and fourth flight test vehicles to the US. FTA-2, FTA-3, and FTA-4 are due to fly to the US before the end of 2016.

FTA-5 will bear ANA livery and remain in Japan.

“We assured ANA of the general status of development and also informed our other customers,” says Fukuhara. “It may have some design impact, and we will fix it. Almost everyday, we have some design issue, and we fix the problem, and manage the schedule to meet our target.”

Fukuhara also said that the company foresees Swedish lessor Rockton firming up its letter of intent for 10 firm MRJ90s and 10 options by the end of 2016. In August, Miami-based Aerolease Aviation’s firmed up an order for 10 MRJ90s and options for 10 more.

Fukuhara was upbeat about the type’s two lessor customers.

“Leasing companies usually don't order new aircraft until the customers, secondary market, and residual values are established,” he says. “These deals came during the early stage of MRJ’s development, and show lessors’ confidence in the value of the MRJ in the future. So, they ordered on a speculative basis. A major milestone.”

The airframer is targeting to certificate the aircraft in early 2018, before delivering the first jet to ANA in the middle of the year. Its original plan to ferry its first flight test aircraft to the US by August was however pushed back a month, after it was forced to abort the mission twice due to anomalies with a sensor in the aircraft’s air monitoring system.

Last December, Mitsubishi pushed back initial delivery of the MRJ90 by a year to mid-2018, relinquishing its one year advantage to entry-into-service over the rival Embraer 190-E2.

Source: Cirium Dashboard