TOKYO -- Mitsubishi Heavy Industries will move up the start of test flights of its passenger jet in the U.S. to as soon as July in an effort to keep its target delivery schedule of mid-2018.
"We will ship [the jet] to the U.S. this summer and begin test fights," said Yoichi Kujirai, senior executive vice president in charge of the Mitsubishi Regional Jet project, in a business strategy briefing in Tokyo Friday.
The company had planned to begin testing the jet in September, but has decided to ship it to the U.S. in late July and conduct tests in the western state of Washington. Testing in the U.S., rather than in Japan, will allow Mitsubishi Heavy to conduct flights more frequently, making it possible to gather data necessary to obtain government certification in a shorter period. Since the U.S. is also a big potential market, it would greatly help the company make up for development delays and turn a profit in the business sooner.
Mitsubishi Heavy said Friday that it has set up a joint venture with an autoparts maker to handle surface treatment of aircraft components. The partner, Shinwa Industry, located in the city of Toyota, Aichi Prefecture, is a 100% unit of Kojima Industries, a midtier autoparts maker that counts Toyota Motor as a customer. The joint venture, capitalized at 100 million yen ($934,000), is 51% owned by Shinwa and the rest by Mitsubishi Heavy.
The joint venture is a step toward mass production of the MRJ and providing after-sales services. Mitsubishi Heavy wants to build up a sufficient capacity to manufacture 10 or so MRJs a month by the time the jetliner's deliveries to customers hit full stride in 2020.