Mitsubishi banks on 'foreign experts' for MRJ development

Mitsubishi Aircraft is tapping foreign expertise to move its five-times delayed MRJ regional jet programme forward.

Of the company's 1,900-strong workforce, about 300 are foreigners, the manufacturer's newly appointed president Hisakazu Mizutani tells FlightGlobal. These "global experts" are in various roles, from design and engineering, to flight test and certification.

Many of them have recent experience with type certificate of commercial aircraft, which Mitsubishi is counting on to help accelerate design work and smooth the MRJ's certification journey. Of the five schedule push-backs announced thus far, four were related to certification issues, largely due to Mitsubishi's inexperience in the area.

Foreign hires prompted a design change, more than eight years into the aircraft's development, following a design audit and review last year, vice president and general manager of sales and marketing Yugo Fukuhara tells FlightGlobal. This pushed the manufacturer to announce a two-year delay to the first delivery of the MRJ90 to mid-2020 in January. The extra time allows MRJ to relocate components in the jet's avionics bay and to reroute associated electrical wire harnesses.

Fukuhara adds that having these experienced personnel on the team also boosts the credibility of the programme. Mitsubishi's programme and engineering management offices are now both led by "very experienced non-Japanese".

"The only way to keep confidence and enhance credibility is to show steady progress based upon our new schedule…we realise that the organisation change or reinforcement of the engineering team with very experienced engineering persons can increase the credibility of the schedule," he adds.

"Customers know we have addressed the issues, that we understand the cause, and what we should do now."

Asked if there are concerns that the Japanese programme is putting too much emphasis on foreign experts, Fukuhara says that Mitsubishi is a global company and it is hence natural for it to have a global workforce.

Mitsubishi has also mandated the use of English as the organisation's official business language from 1 April.

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