MOSES LAKE — The third Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp MRJ regional jet rolled up the 65,000-square-foot hangar at Grant County International Airport as light dwindled and the temperatures dropped about 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 19.
Flight crew members waved it in as Mitsubishi flight test employees rubbed their hands and stomped their feet trying to stay warm in a temperature around 20, that felt closer to 2 degrees.
The aircraft, MRJ No. 2, is the third of four MRJ-90s, which will be flight-tested at Grant County International Airport. Like the second jet, it took the southern route from Nagoya (Japan) Airfield Wednesday via Guam International Airport, Majuro International Airport in Republic of the Marshall Islands, Honolulu International Airport and San Jose International Airport. It was expected to arrive in the Columbia Basin sometime on Saturday, but was delayed in Honolulu because of weather conditions.
“Everything is going according to plan, with exception of the weather delay,” said Kenji Okimoto, vice president group leader of corporate affairs. “We will start testing No. 2 (the third jet) as soon as we finish taking all the ferry stuff off and get it for testing.”
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries plans to carry out 2,500 hours of flight testing to gain the certification needed to fly commercially. The first two MRJs — Japan’s first homegrown jet airliner — have been in the air since their arrival in September and November, respectively. With the coming of the third aircraft, they will push forward with flight testing.
“There are multiple tests we have to go through to get these jets ready for commercial flight,” Okimoto said. “We are flying every day with the first two. We’ll get the third one up as soon as it is ready. It all depends on the available air space for that day. Test flights are designed for whatever that day’s requirements are.”
“Each aircraft’s testing won’t necessarily be the same. Twenty-five hundred hours is little firm to get an aircraft certified. Not all of them need the same amount of testing. It all depends on what test activities are necessary.”
Mitsubishi has received 223 firm orders for its new regional jet, according to a report from the Puget Sound Business Journal.
The fourth MRJ-90 is expected to arrive in Moses Lake sometime after the first of the year. Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. is committed to achieving steady progress in flight tests with the assistance of the Moses Lake Flight Test Center at Grant County International Airport, Seattle Engineering Center and Mitsubishi Aircraft Headquarters in Japan.
AeroTEC president and CEO Lee Human was in Moses Lake for historic arrival of the first jet. He said the flight testing on the MRJ is not only a milestone, but Grant County International Airport is one of the best places in the world to achieve results.
“They are here in Moses Lake for a very important reason. This the best place in the world to do flight testing. We can operate efficiently, sensibly and we have great support from the Port of Moses Lake and the FAA,” he said.”I believe this is just the beginning of Moses Lake being seen by the world as great place for flight testing.”