[UPDATE – see MRJ Update under downloads under Featured Downloads]
Today Mitsubishi announced its first flight plans for October – “Latter half of October 2015” is their language. The flight is planned for an hour. We are in an era where first flight dates are not announced this far ahead and with equally liquid time periods. MRJ must feel some confidence that they would even publish this – we have seen first flight windows announced a week ahead to media with no certainty whatsoever – a sort of “be here between day X and day Y”. To be fair OEMs planning such events have to contend with all sorts of variables – recall the CS300 first flight in February this year when the weather was predictably awfully cold and unsettled. But that’s Montreal weather for you.
MRJ is equally careful:This is a big moment for MRJ – it is intent to break into the small duopoly and has bet over two billion (2008 estimate was $1.9bn which has certainly risen since then with delays). With a retail price of $47.5m the MRJ90 faces a battle. It is over the weight allowed by US scope clauses for aircraft of this seat segment. So is the forthcoming Embraer E2-175. Only Bombardier’s CRJ remains under the limit. The key customers for this aircraft, being US-based, will lobby hard for the limit to be lifted to allow both the MRJ (and E2) into the segment. We hear Bombardier is not ignoring the obvious threat, and they are more tight-lipped about this than usual. It may become messy because there is a good argument that says a duopoly is all that can exist in the segment – one OEM might have to fall out.
As Mitsubishi has discovered after three delays and first delivery to come four years late, this is an unforgiving business. It wisely has sought technical and marketing assistance from Boeing. It may need every bit of its deep pockets to stay in the business. Bombardier and Embraer will provide no welcome mat.
Your observations remind me of an occasion back in the late 1970s, when the international editor of a European weekly aviation journal greeted what we now have to call ‘breaking’ news of a military jet’s first flight with the wry comment: “That’s not bad — just 24hr later than they said it would be four days ago…” No, not the YF-16, which wasn’t intended to fly (but did so, I believe, to overcome some instability or oscillation during a fast taxy run…).
Pehaps other readers have other tales?