Japan increases inspection of Mitsubishi jet

The Daily Yomiuri Online reports that Japan wants to verify integrity of the composites-intensive Mitsubishi Regional Jet in order to win customers from the U.S.

The Daily Yomiuri Online reported on Dec. 30 that the Japanese Construction and Transport Ministry has decided to increase from 17 to 40 the number of full-time members of its safety audit team for the nation's first passenger jet, the Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ).

The report says the ministry wants stress the safety of the MRJ in a bid to boost overseas sales before the scheduled 2013 launch of the composites-intensive aircraft, which is being developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. (MHI, Tokyo, Japan). The ministry will make the unprecedented increase in the next fiscal year. The move will mean more than one-third of its 113 aircraft safety reviewers will be part of the MRJ team.

The report notes that the current 17-person safety audit team meets almost daily with MHI engineers at the ministry's Aircraft Engineering and Certification Center, which is located next to the Aichi Prefecture-operated Nagoya Airfield. The team has been checking the aircraft since the basic design stage.

The report says the audit team has been checking the MRJ on a trial-and-error basis. It is auditing every section of the jet, including its wings, fuselage and hydraulic system. It has invited instructors from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, a body experienced in aircraft safety audits, and is sending its own auditors to train in the United States.

There is said to be some tension regarding data integrity relative to carbon fiber use in the MRJ's wings. Kazuhiko Hirai, the center's chief, is in charge of assembling the review team. "The quality of every strand of carbon fiber must be guaranteed," Hirai said. "It's a daunting task."

The team is focused on the scheduled 2013 launch of the MRJ. It plans, henceforth, to step up its audit to include more detailed design checks and test flights of prototypes. The MRJ is a state project with a proportion of development costs being borne by the government.

The report notes that MHI is targeting the MRJ at the market for small jets that seat between 60 and 99 passengers. The firm estimates that the market will demand more than 5,000 such jets over the next two decades. But only All Nippon Airways has placed an order for an MRJ. To boost orders, it is important that safety audits are strict enough to reassure key buyers from overseas airlines in places such as the United States and Europe.

Information: Click here for the original report in TheDaily Yomiuri Online.