Mitsubishi announced their telegraphed delay overnight -MRJ delayed for a year.  This the the slide deck the company provided: 20151224_Update on MRJ Development Status

In its PR note the company states: “The first flight and the subsequent flight tests have confirmed the basic characteristics to be satisfactory. However, we also have recognized several issues as we attempt to accelerate our development. In order to tackle these issues and address the perspectives below, we have reviewed and revised our overall schedule.   
Specifically, in the progress of our engineering work together with experts in the United States, we have made additions to and revisions of test items in order to complete a better-integrated aircraft. These have been reflected in the new delivery schedule. In addition, we have undertaken an overall review with our partners, and reflected this in our development schedule.”  See the full note here: 20151224_MRJ’s Latest Development Status

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Some thoughts on the announcement.

  • Delays are normal these days. Everyone has them and with a clean sheet design the chances of a delay are even greater.  The MRJ is being developed by a company that hasn’t built a plane in fifty years.
  • There have been only three test flights as shown in slide two of the MITAC deck.  On slide three the company states it needs to strengthen the airframe and update system software.
  • Strengthening the airframe is going to add to weight.  That should be a concern as weight is not desired.  How is it that the design strength was not correctly computed?
  • Updating system software is rather generic.  Which system software?

Japanese manufacturers are known for high quality, just like the Germans.  Engineering is a strength the Japanese are known for.  The delay announcement is odd. Firstly, timing – why do this on December 24th?  Secondly, the issues the company identifies appear to be  significant; these are items that should have shown up earlier.

The announcement was quite generic and not specific.  Airframe strengthening and system software are each broad areas that require more detail. We will be asking questions regarding these areas.

The Bottom Line

MITAC has what appears to be a compelling aircraft, as two large US regional airlines confirmed with their orders.  ANA and JAL also ordered the aircraft, but some could cynically say these are “Buy Japan” deals rather than on the merits of the aircraft.  However neither of the Japanese airlines would consider an aircraft that did not offer something positive other than supporting local industry.

As we noted yesterday, Embraer appears to be on schedule with the E2.  Plus Bombardier is seemingly through its teething trouble with C Series.  MITAC is not only a new entrant into the segment, its competitors are narrowing the window of opportunity with their own new models.

ANA and SkyWest both offered supportive comments to MITAC, and are eagerly awaiting the new aircraft, which could offer best in class performance.  We are aware of customer frustration.  Fleet planning is complicated enough – remember how ANA had to juggle with the delayed 787 and took some new 767’s to fill in gaps?  Schedules are planned long in advance and upsetting a fleet plan is disruptive.  Not only flight schedules are impacted, MRO decisions are too.  Delays can be messy for customers as well as aircraft manufacturers.

As we look at recent all-new aircraft, including 787, C Series, A350 and MRJ, all have experienced major delays.  The new norm is hurry up and wait, and the MRJ is no exception.

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