Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp., which announced a fifth delay in the delivery of its passenger jet last week, plans to boost the number of engineers at a Seattle facility by more than a third as it steps up flight tests to meet an extended deadline.
The maker of the Mitsubishi Regional Jet will increase staff to more than 200 from about 150 at the engineering center, which opened in 2015, Yugo Fukuhara, vice president of sales and marketing, said in an interview Tuesday in Tokyo. It will also fly a fourth jet to the U.S. within about a month for testing, he said.
“We want to make sure we have good coordination with our flight tests in Washington and engineering in Seattle and Nagoya,” Fukuhara said.
The Nagoya-based builder of Japan’s first home-made passenger jet last week pushed back delivery to its launch client ANA Holdings Inc. to 2020, two years later than the previous estimate, after needing changes to some electrical configurations to meet certification requirements. Fukuhara said Mitsubishi has kept its customers informed of the delays and there’s been no talk of cancellations.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. (IW 1000/116), the owner of the aircraft maker, has said the development costs are likely to increase about 30% with the latest delay, as the conglomerate attempts to break the dominance of Brazil’s Embraer SA and Canada’s Bombardier Inc. on jets with less than 100 seats. The MRJ can seat as many as 92 people and made its first flight in 2015.
In a separate interview with Bloomberg Television’s Rishaad Salamat, Fukuhara said the flight test program will continue, declining to provide details of cost escalation.
The company is seeking to tap local talent for its Seattle center because the area offers a lot of people who have previously worked for Boeing Co., Fukuhara said.
“One of the reasons we made a base in that area is because there are so many Boeing people there,” he said.
ANA, Japan’s biggest airline, said last week it was “disappointed” at this latest delay, but will continue to support the development of the jet as its launch customer. The carrier will maintain its order of 25 planes, including options, it said.
St. George, Utah-based SkyWest Inc., which has placed an order for 200 planes including options, said last week that its firm orders for the MRJ aircraft “remain unchanged” and are dependent on flying contracts and scope availability. Bridgeton, Mo.-based Trans States Airlines Inc., which has 100 MRJs on order, said in an e-mail that it was “disappointed” by the additional delay.
Mitsubishi isn’t the only manufacturer struggling to meet deadlines. Embraer, which is upgrading engines on its jets with less than 100 seats, last month said it was pushing back the entry into service of its E175 E2 jet, which can seat as many as 88 people, to 2021, from 2020.
By Chris Cooper and Kiyotaka Matsuda