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Mitsubishi's review of MRJ schedule signals possible delay

Mitsubishi Aircraft says it is reviewing the schedule of its MRJ regional jet, the strongest indication yet that the Japanese aircraft programme could again be delayed.

The disclosure comes after media reports in Japan on 24 July say that the MRJ programme will be delayed because of issues in the procurement of "key components" from foreign manufacturers.

Mitsubishi says the news articles are not based on information from the airframer.

"All of our partners, including Pratt & Whitney, fully support the MRJ programme with their best efforts and meet requirements for our development schedule," it adds.

Replying to questions from Flightglobal Pro, a spokesman adds: "We are currently reviewing the schedule and will make an announcement in one month or so."

This follows comments from P&W on 24 July that the progress for the PurePower PW1100G-JM, which will power the Airbus A320neo family, remains on track despite a test mishap discovered earlier this year.

The PW1100G-JM is closely related to the PW1200G, the powerplant for the MRJ. The PW1000G family of engines offers a drive gear system to improve fuel efficiency.

A routine inspection detected an "issue" with a turbine vane that prompted P&W to make a "minor modification" to the PW1100G-JM, says P&W.

Despite a report indicating that the engine suffered substantial thermal damage during a test because of the turbine vane issue, P&W says the engine continued the test programme and accomplished all objectives over more than 100h.

Mitsubishi's disclosure on 25 July is the strongest indication yet that the MRJ programme could be delayed. Before this, the Japanese airframer had maintained that it was on track to perform its year-end first flight.

At the Paris air show in June, its president Teruaki Kawai told Flightglobal Pro that it will start final assembly of its first regional jet "within the next two months", and that he is confident of achieving the year-end first flight target.

He could not say when P&W would deliver its first PW1200 geared turbofan engines, but reiterated that the engine maker has promised to "support Mitsubishi's schedule".

The MRJ was originally expected to enter flight testing in late 2011, but this was delayed to the second quarter of 2012 and again, to late 2013.

Mitsubishi has a backlog for 165 firm orders with 160 options. The programme received a major boost last year when US carrier SkyWest Airlines made an order for 100 MRJ90s with an option for an additional 100 of the type.

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