Industry still harbours ambitions to build family of regional jet aircraft with Boeing

Japan Aircraft Development (JADC) is pushing forward with feasibility studies into its proposed YSX family of 80-110-seat regional jets in the hope that the aircraft can eventually be launched in partnership with Boeing to extend the lower end of the US manufacturer's product line.

A large chunk of the agency's ´3.6 billion ($29 million) research and development budget for fiscal year 2001 is being devoted to projects intended to close remaining gaps in Japan's civil aircraft development capabilities. The ultimate aim, according to JADC managing director Masaomi Kadoya, is for Japanese industry to lead development of the YSX as prime contractor with Boeing possibly holding a significant risk-sharing stake.

The JADC is responsible for co-ordinating Japanese Government-sponsored civil aircraft research carried out by Japanese Aircraft Industries, a consortium comprising Kawasaki, Mitsubishi and Fuji Heavy Industries, Shin Maywa Industries and Japan Aircraft Manufacturing.

The YSX work forms part of long running study by Boeing on a New Small Airplane (NSA) which could occupy a market segment below the Next Generation 737 family, or be its eventual replacement, but above regional jet families such as the Bombardier CRJ, Embraer ERJ-170 and Fairchild Dornier 728JET. The NSA would share a high degree of commonality with Boeing's existing or future product family.

Despite the fact that the YSX/ NSA work has failed to progress beyond the feasibility stage for several years, Japan continues to fund related research and development work. A memorandum of understanding between JADC and Boeing has been updated regularly as the project evolves, most recently in April 2000.

Ongoing YSX work in Japan this year includes studies into advanced flight control and cockpit systems, nose, cockpit and wing structures and next-generation avionics systems. These are aimed at achieving a dramatic reduction in parts count and production and operating costs compared with other regional jets.

The YSX is configured as a conventional low-wing twin jet powered by Rolls-Royce BR715 or Pratt & Whitney PW6000 engines. The 80-seat version would have a range of 5,500km/h (3,000nm), versus around 3,700km for a stretched model with up to 122 seats. Kadoya says the family could have as many as four members, seating 80, 90, 100 and 110 passengers in their basic configurations.

Japan was to have been a 25% partner in Boeing's aborted propfan-powered 7J7, which was shelved in 1994 following eight years on the drawing board.

Source: Flight International