Making its Farnborough debut, Mitsubishi Aircraft’s MRJ90 regional jet is performing a striking air-show routine designed to showcase the all-new aircraft’s sword-inspired design and quiet engine noise. But with the “scope clause” in pilot contracts looming over the all-important U.S. regional jet marketplace, Mitsubishi hopes the Airshow will also raise the profile of the entire program, including the recently approved 76-seat MRJ70.

Nicknamed “Dragon” in homage to Mitsubishi Aircraft’s hometown Nagoya Chunichi Dragons professional baseball team, the aircraft here at the show is MRJ production no. 10003, also known as FTA3 (flight-test Aircraft 3). The jet is the only one of the four flight-test aircraft based at the company’s Moses Lake Flight Test Center in Washington State to feature the livery of launch customer All Nippon Airways.

In spite of costly initial setbacks and delays, the presence of the MRJ90 at Farnborough and the firm go-ahead of the MRJ70 earlier this year are seen as strong signs the program’s future is on increasingly sure footing. The flight-test program is now over 50% complete, having accrued over 2,000 flight hr., while progress toward certification is accelerating with the arrival of the first new wiring harnesses, which will conform to design regulations in Nagoya and are currently being prepared for installation.

The next phase of MRJ flight-testing will evaluate runway performance: included will be a velocity minimum unstick test, which will feature an intentional tail strike. The MRJ program’s footprint at Moses Lake is also set to expand with the upcoming arrival of two final-configuration MRJ90 flight-test aircraft (production nos. 10010 and 10007), both of which are currently under construction in Nagoya. While there isn’t yet a flying example of the MRJ70, two such aircraft (serial nos. 10008 and 10009) are also slated to eventually join the flight-test program at Moses Lake, where Mitsubishi plans to complete the remainder of the flight-test program and certification effort.

Mitsubishi continues its focus on the North American market for the bulk of MRJ orders, where over one-third of future regional jet deliveries are expected to occur in the next decade. Demand forecasts indicate a market of nearly 900 aircraft orders between 2022 and 2027, as regional carriers will need to replace their current fleets. Under Mitsubishi’s recently revised development schedule, initial MRJ90 deliveries are now expected in 2020, while MRJ70 certification and initial deliveries are anticipated the following year.