The Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ), the first commercial passenger plane designed and built in Japan in half a century, has successfully completed its maiden flight on Wednesday.
The one-hour test flight around Nagoya Airport represented a major milestone in efforts of Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp to develop the 100-seater plane aimed to become a major competitor of Canada’s Bombardier.
The project, which has been delayed by three years, is Japan's the first attempt to break into the commercial aircraft market since the 1960s’ YS-11.
With deliveries expected to start in June 2017, the MRJ uses 20 per cent less fuel than similarly sized aircraft of competitors, Mitsubishi said. This improvement is achieved thanks to a new generation of Pratt & Whitney engines.
Mitsubishi has already received 223 firm orders for the $47m (£31m) jet. Japan Airlines has ordered 32 planes in January. The biggest single order, for 100 aircraft, was received from US regional airline operator Trans State Holdings.
Mitsubishi hopes to sell more than 2,000 aircraft and establish itself as a serious player in the aerospace industry, capable of competing with the likes of Boeing and Bombardier in the regional jet segment.
The previous Japanese attempt to develop a successful commercial aircraft, the YS-11 in the 1960s, failed. The production was stopped after only 182 planes had been built.
However, this experience enabled Japanese companies involved in the project including Mitsubishi Heavy to develop the know-how to become suppliers of components for Boeing. These Japanese companies build 35 per cent of the carbon-composite Boeing's 787 Dreamliner, including the wings, the most complex part.
Japan’s aerospace industry, which developed the WW2 Zero fighter was dismantled after Japan lost the war.