Spirit AeroSystems marked the completion of the first flight test pylon for its regional jetliner, the Mitsubishi Regional Jet, Monday afternoon with a celebration attended by employees and officials from both companies.
The rollout of the pylon in a Spirit hangar emphasizes the company’s expanding business to non-Boeing customers and its entry into the regional jet market.
“We’re thrilled to bring Mitsubishi Aircraft on (as a customer),” said Cathy McClain, Spirit AeroSystems director of business and regional jet programs.
Japan-based Mistubishi Aircraft Corp. awarded the contract to Spirit in 2008.
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Mitsubishi Aircraft began operations in April 2008 as a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to develop and produce regional jets, including the MRJ 90, with 90 seats, and the MRJ 70, with 70 seats.
The two planes have common wings, tails and systems.
First flight of the MRJ is expected in mid-2015 with delivery to customers beginning in mid-2017.
Spirit designed and built the pylon, the specialized structure that holds an aircraft's engine and its casing to the wing.
Spirit also builds the pylons for all Boeing airplanes in production.
The design and production of pylons are one of Spirit’s key capabilities, officials noted.
Masao Fujimori, Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp. vice president of supply chain management, thanked Spirit employees for persevering through delays in the program.
“Your team never gave up, and (you) worked very hard to regain our schedule,” Fujimori said. “Spirit taught us the true meaning of partnership.”
The pylon unveiled Monday will be used on the first flight test aircraft.
A pylon is a complicated piece of equipment, McClain said. It includes a fire suppression system and temperature sensors, and hydraulic lines run through it.
Demand for aircraft holding 70 to 90 passengers is expected to total more than 5,000 units over the next 20 years, Mitsubisi said.
Demand is rising as airlines upsize from 50-seat regional jets. And in the other direction, they are moving from mainline jets to large regional jets because of high fuel prices and, on some routes, lower passenger numbers.