Aeronautics and Aerospace

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Mitsubishi reported Thursday a further delay of its regional jet MRJ. Besides the Japanese group, the Canadian Bombardier with its C-Series, Chinese Comac with its C919 and the Russian Sukhoi with its Superjet, all reported programme slippage over the past month.

A rotten summer for aircraft manufacturers. If Boeing focuses attention on the many technical problems that enamel the operational service life of the B787, the Canadian Bombardier with its C-Series, the Chinese Comac with its C919, the Russian Sukhoi with its Superjet, and the Japanese Mitsubishi with its MRJ, all reported programme slippage over the past month. Delays that can result in significant penalties payable to airlines. There are many reasons to explain these delays that affect all aircraft programs. In addition to manufacturers’ optimism when developing their schedule, their ability to manage unfortunate events, are the difficulties to master new industrial processes or new materials or increased outsourcing of production.

First test flight in 2015 for the MRJ

This Thursday, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) has announced another delay in the schedule of delivery of its regional jet MRJ (70-92 seats), notably because of a delay in the supply of components. The Management which aims 20% of the regional aircraft market (now locked by Embraer and Bombardier), now intends to conduct a first test flight in the summer of 2015 and deliver its first aircraft, not on March 2016 but during the summer of 2017. More than one year ahead of the previous calendar, which had already been revised twice. Intended to become the first jet aircraft ever built in the archipelago (the latter nevertheless built a regional propeller aircraft in the 50s, who ended its career in 2006, with only 180 aeroplanes sold), the MRJ now displays a delay of four years. The initial schedule at the launch of the program in 2008 envisaged commissioning in 2013. The Japanese manufacturer has been making technical adjustments requested by customers. Today, only three companies have placed orders (All Nippon Airways, Trans States Holdings and Skywest) for 165 aircrafts (without options). Mitsubishi indicates that the first aeroplane is however already being assembled.

Sukhoi suspends the work on the elongated Superjet

The Japanese group rests assured, as it is not the only one behind. On August 14, the Russian government announced that it had postponed until 2016 the project SSJ New Generation of Sukhoi Civil Aviation, a 130-seat aeroplane, in order to focus on the Superjet 100. This regional jet which has a capacity from 75 to 100 seats is in pain since its launch in 2008 and commissioning in 2011. It experienced several technical failures: crash during demonstration in Indonesia and difficulty in finding customers since then. To such an extent, and to get the aeroplane that would symbolize the revival of the Russian aviation industry back on track, the VEB bank, the financial muscle of the Russian state began to sell its 5% stake in EADS in order to inject new funds into the manufacturer Sukhoi Civil Aviation.

One year of delay for the C919

It is not all peaches and cream in China who, like Russia, has the ambition to become a major aerospace power. On August 7, the official newspaper China Daily announced a delay in the program of the C919, medium-haul aircraft with a capacity of 168 seats (for the basic version) who wants to shake up the Airbus-Boeing duopoly market of aircrafts with more than 150 seats. Because of "technical difficulties", the manufacturer Comac has indeed postponed the first test flight until 2015. Commissioning scheduled far in 2016 seems untenable and could not take place until 2018 or 2019, according to Wang Ya'nan, co-editor-in-chief of the Chinese magazine Aerospace Magazine. Well after the entry into service of re-engined A320 (Neo) and B737 (Max), respectively scheduled for 2015 and 2017. Enough to give more time to Airbus and Boeing to prepare their bestseller successors allowing them to keep ahead of Chinese groups.

When is the first flight of the C-Series?

Bombardier also has trouble with the C-Series, the new aircraft with a capacity ranging from 100 to 149 seats (or 160 in the high density release), which is scheduled for delivery in 2014. Late July, the third global manufacturer has announced a further postponement of the inaugural flight of the aircraft, originally scheduled for June "It will take more time for the maturity of the systems integration to enable flight test programme," said the manufacturer in a statement, without specifying a new schedule. Launched in 2008, the C-Series would be operated initially in 2013 and has only 177 firm orders.

The second test A350 is scheduled for September

Meanwhile, the campaign of flight tests of the A350 continues. Began in mid-June, it aims for a certification within 12 to 14 months for a delivery late 2014. To achieve its goal, Airbus should not lag behind to fly the other four A350 aircrafts planned for the test campaign. According to the schedule provided by Airbus in June, the second aircraft (the MSN3) must fly in September; the third (MSN2) in early 2014, followed almost immediately by the last two (spring 2014).

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