Mitsubishi rendering of its late 'me too' MRJ airliner

The competency of Japan’s Mitsubishi group when it comes to managing a new regional jet project is getting some embarrassing scrutiny following confirmation that deliveries of the jet will now be three years later than originally promised.

In a English language report based on a statement issued by the company late yesterday in Japan Mitsubishi’s laying of the blame on everyone but itself has also been slapped aside by Pratt & Whitney, the engine maker, which has said that it is fully on time with its obligations to the MRJ or Mitsubishi Regional Jet project for what looks like a clone of the Brazil designed and made Embraer E-jet family.

Mitsubishi may have been inspired to face up to the delays by this report in Flightglobal earlier in the week, which contained candid indications of a program in disarray and quoted suppliers as saying the delay of the first flight of the prototype from the end of this year to next year meant first deliveries to customers were slipping to late 2015, not late 2017 as now confirmed.

The critical question that arises from this stumbling around by Mitsubishi is ‘what innovations does the MRJ bring to the market, if it ever arrives?’

It is clearly not a selling point to do a me-too copy of an existing line of jets and be late doing it as well.

Whatever the many and valid criticisms that can be made of delayed Boeing and Airbus jets, such as the 787 and A350, they are airliners that bring advances in materials, systems and operational efficiencies to their customers, if they are (cough) very patient. What does the MRJ bring? The same question can be asked of the similarly very embarrassing struggle China is having with the COMAC c919 attempt to reinvent, or recreate, an A320.

This is not a reflection on the technical capabilities or potential of China or Japan per se. But it is a very serious reflection on the quality of the management of such complex projects. Neither China nor Japan has come up with anything like a compelling offer for a modern and innovative cutting edge new jet airliner.

And while the c919 and MRJ struggle, the world waits, and waits, for the first flight of the Bombardier CSeries 100 prototype, which is definitely not a copy of the current or next generation of the Embraer E-jets, even though it is most assuredly a competitor using a different approach to the need for regional jet performance.

Bombardier is an established successful airliner maker through its Dash 8 series of turboprops and its CRJ family and their potent corporate jet renderings.  It’s doing it tough selling the CSeries, as an established player.  This underlines how much tougher the task ahead is for COMAC and Mitsubishi.

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