Mitsubishi optimistic about regional jet market

  • 12-Feb-2009 05:18 EST
Mitsubishi believes that the low fuel consumption and quiet operation of the MRJ90 will make it attractive even in a down market.

Mitsubishi says it is focusing on both reduced fuel consumption and noise as it finishes up its designs and prepares for first flight of its new regional jet in 2011.

The Mitsubishi Regional Jet will comes in two versions, the MRJ70 and MRJ90. The larger MRJ90, which will hit the market first, is 118 ft long. It will carry between 86 and 96 passengers depending on configuration. The 70- to 80-seat MRJ70 will be 8 ft shorter than the MRJ90. Both will come in three versions and have a 97.6-ft wingspan.

The company predicts that the market for this class jet will be 5000 units over the next 20 years. After first flight in 2011, the first delivery will be in 2013. All Nippon Airways has already ordered 15 aircraft, with an option to take 10 more.

Although Mitsubishi’s market entrance comes at a time when some buyers have curtailed jet purchases due to economic problems, executives feel the plane’s benefits make its $38 million price tag an attractive alternative to its competition.

“We don’t think we are facing a headwind. We think this is a tailwind,” said Junichi Miyakawa, Executive Vice President, Engineering, for Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp.

Among the keys behind his optimism are reductions in fuel consumption, emissions, and noise pollution in comparison to competing aircraft. Overall, Miyakawa said the aircraft reduces fuel consumption by 26% compared to its competitors.

A centerpiece in these improvements is the use of two Pratt & Whitney PurePower PW1000G engines. A major change in that engine is the addition of a gear between the turbine and the fan, which keeps turbine rotation high while letting the fan rotate at a slower rate.

“Because this is optimized, fuel efficiency increases dramatically,” said Miyakawa. He noted that 13%, or half the total improvement, comes from the engine.

Another aspect of its fuel efficiency is extensive use of composites, which total about 30% of the material usage. Aluminum still dominates with 58%, with titanium and steel making up a small amount of the materials. The empty weight of the MRJ90 is 55,500 lb.

The aircraft also boasts reduced noise, between 10 to 15 dB lower than competitors. One aspect of that is a wing design that trims noise during landings. Mitsubishi engineers worked with the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency and academic researchers at Tohoku University for this aerodynamic improvement.

Mitsubishi also trimmed noise by developing a slat that reduces the airflow between the slat and the main wing.

“We carefully controlled the geometry of the slat and the main wing, so that the noise of the slat will be reduced considerably,” Miyakawa said. The slat and landing gear are among the largest noise contributors during landings, he noted.

The basic MRJ90 has a range of 870 mi fully loaded, while the MRJ70’s range is 800 mi. The range of the largest model for each line has more than double this mileage. Inside, the MRJ90 offers more space than competitors, Miyakawa claimed. The cabin measures 116 in wide, while the fuselage is 114 in tall.

In the cockpit, the MRJ uses a homegrown flight-control system that designers said is equivalent to the systems used in larger jets such as Boeing’s 787. “A lot of people don’t realize Mitsubishi has more than a decade’s corporate experience in flight controls, Miyakawa said. Rockwell Collins also supplies some flight-control systems.

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