The Mitsubishi SpaceJet program that showed has encountered a stumbling block once again. The Japanese-built airliner started conducting flights to obtain its certification in its Moses Lake, Washington, United States facility in 2019.
However, the recent COVID-19 outbreak has paused flight tests in the United States due to the restrictions imposed by the Washington State government. The aircraft, once known as the Mitsubishi MRJ, was initially supposed to enter service in 2013, but now, a late-2021 entry date with All Nippon Airways is on the cards.
The Japanese aircraft maker conducted flight tests in the United States to obtain the type certificate for the SpaceJet. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, the flight tests were forced to a halt.
“Flight tests at our Flight Test Center in Moses Lake have now paused – workers are now telecommuting,” stated a Mitsubishi Aircraft spokesperson.
The program’s newest test frame, the JA26MJ, was supposed to be shipped to the United States to join the test program. JA26MJ, also referred to as FTV10, embarked on its first flight on March 18, 2020, when it circled near Prefectural Nagoya Airport, Japan (NKM).
“Although the first flight of FTV10 was completed on March 18 and its type certification flight test is in the final phase, we have had to check the timing and place for the ferry flight while we evaluate the impact of COVID-19 travel restrictions around the world.”
While the program was put on a hold in the United States, the company began flight testing in Japan. The move was done “in an effort to further mitigate any impact of the operational pause at our MFC facility,” added the spokesperson for the company. While Mitsubishi has taken the steps to minimize risks of delays to the program, the situation is currently uncertain whether the outbreak will have a long-term impact on the certification of the M90.
The SpaceJet M90, the current version undergoing testing, is a 76-92 seat aircraft powered by the Pratt & Whitney PW1200G. The M90 will be joined by the M100, a 70-88 seat jet, specifically developed for the United States market under scope clause agreements, in 2022.