Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is building a final assembly factory which will have capacity to produce up to 10 MRJ regional jets per month, as the Japanese manufacturer gears up for first flight and continues its push for more aircraft sales.

Construction of the assembly centre, near Nagoya airport, is ongoing and set to start operations in mid-2016, Mitsubishi Aircraft president Hiromichi Morimoto said during a briefing at the Paris air show.

The centre will be able to accommodate 12 aircraft concurrently and be the sole facility for MRJ production.

He adds that the centre will have a moving line and also use automation such as robots for final assembly to increase efficiency and reduce costs.

Queried about its planned production rate, Mitsubishi says it will start with one aircraft per month before ramping up to 10, "on the assumption that we do get a good number of orders".

The airframer is forecasting a demand for 5,190 regional jets over the next 20 years and targeting to capture half of the market with its baseline MRJ90, shrink MRJ70 and a planned 100-seat stretched variant.

Asked about the lack of new orders, Morimoto responds: "Development is going smoothly for the MRJ, but customers need to see it fly before making a decision. I'm confident that our orders will come through in more numbers as we demonstrate the aircraft's first flight very shortly."

He adds that the programme is on track for first flight in either September or October. Flightglobal's Ascend Fleets database shows there are 223 firm orders for the MRJ, plus options for 184.

Source: Cirium Dashboard