The third attempt proved a charm as Mitsubishi Aircraft successfully landed it’s MRJ-90 regional jet at Grant County International Airport in Moses Lake, Washington.
The aircraft had three stops along the way at New Chitose Airport Japan, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky Airport, Russia and Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport in Alaska. Extra fuel bladders were loaded onto the aircraft to enable the aircraft to have as few stops as possible. Flight Test Aircraft (FTA-1; JA21MJ) took off from Nagoya Japan at 1:28 pm JST on Monday and arrived at Moses Lake on Wednesday at 5:44 pm PST. Total flight time was 13 hrs 8 minutes flying which covered a distance of 8,300 km.
During the flight from Japan, plane spotters noted how the aircraft wasn’t available to track regularly after it left Japan on services like Flight Radar 24. Mitsubishi Aircraft responded that each of the four aircraft, once they’ve arrive here in the USA, will have a new transponder installed in the aircraft so that issue will be addressed. The four aircraft then will fly the 88 passenger aircraft over 2,500 flight hours to receive FAA certification.
Mitsubishi can now put their subcontractor for aircraft testing, Seattle-based AeroTEC, to work. AeroTec and Mitsubishi Aircraft have grown their engineering office in Seattle to 150 combined engineers (100 AeroTEC, 50 Mitsubishi). At Moses Lake, AeroTEC built a large 65,000 sq ft hangar as well as an adjacent office building to house the planned staff of 300 employees along with Mitsubishi Aircraft. The five runways at the airport, two at 13,500 and 10,000 ft in length, should provide ample room for the aircraft to do testing.
Members of the media were allowed to tour these facilities before the arrival of the MRJ-90 earlier in the day. No photos were allowed, but we were able to see what looked like many mission controls rooms all through out the building. Also, Mitsubishi Aircraft built a full scale simulator for pilots to get acclimated and learn the basics on how to fly the aircraft. The current plan is for the other three FTAs to arrive in Moses Lake by the end of 2016. FTA-2 has flow since late spring while FTA-4 just flew a week ago on it’s first flight. FTA-3 will have it’s first flight in October. A company representative stated that Mitsubishi Aircraft will have to move “aggressively” in order to make that timeline.
What was interesting to note is that when all four FTA’s are finally at Moses Lake, only two test aircraft will be flying or testing at a time. Mitsubishi & AeroTEC have determined jointly that this is the most effective method to bring their aircraft to certification quickly and safely. Mitsubishi Heavy Industry’s will also be basing it’s Beech 400 chase plane out of Moses Lake to be the dedicated chase plane. The aircraft is painted with the same livery as FTA-1.
Mitsubishi representatives repeated the previously made statement that they intend to deliver their first aircraft to their launch customer in 2018.
What was impressive to this author was this was the first time I’ve seen and heard a Pratt & Whitney Geared Turbo Fan engine up close. Media were allowed to get within 200 feet of the aircraft. For being this close, the engines running idle were noticeably much quieter than IAE or CFM engines on other narrow body aircraft. When FTA-1 did a fly by over the main runway, there was hardly any engine noise even though the press was less then 150 ft from the main runway.
Below is media of the arrival of FTA-1 JA21MJ.
Touchdown of the MRJ
Water Cannon Salute to the MRJ
MRJ engine idle before shutdown
MRJ Flight Crew emerges from the aircraft