A Mitsubishi SpaceJet test aircraft was dismantled on March 8 at the Grant County International Airport (MWH). Isaac Alexander of Hype Aviation tweeted pictures of the aircraft being dismantled, SpaceJet JA21MJ.
This is the second flight test aircraft to be dismantled since 2022. Flight Global broke the news, reporting that the M90 had been manufactured in 2015. It was moved to Moses Lake in 2016 for testing and the program was halted in 2020 due to the issues related to the pandemic and it was announced on Feb. 6, 2023 that the program would be dissolved permanently. The company had dealt with multiple delays and certification issues before the pandemic, spending millions for a completion date that was pushed back multiple times. In the end, it was never granted U.S. certification and as the test aircraft are being dismantled, marks the end of the SpaceJet era.
Simple Flying reported that any reusable aircraft parts like the GPS will be removed and sold to another manufacturer. Unlike other manufacturers, Mitsubishi does not have another aircraft to use the dismantled pieces for and most of the scrapped plane pieces will be sold for scrap or repurposed.
The scrapped model belonged to the Mitsubishi SpaceJet program, originally named Mitsubishi Regional Jet in 2003 when it was launched. The Japanese government launched a five-year research program led by Mitsubishi, and a design was unveiled in 2009. The production drawing phase and manufacturing process began in 2010 and in December 2012, the first MRJ90 delivery was scheduled for 2017.
Mitsubishi was hit with delays throughout the process, one in 2013 when Pratt andamp; Whitney delayed the PW1200G certification to late 2014 and another when Mitsubishi announced the first flight would take place in 2015 rather than the end of 2013. The first flight for the MRJ90 took place on Nov. 11, 2015 and on Dec. 24 a one-year delay was announced for the first delivery, pushing the anticipated delivery date to 2018. The delay was attributed to insufficient wing strength and a redesign of the landing gear for better safety.
Most of the flight testing took place in Moses Lake, Washington since the crowding in Japan's airspace caused scheduling difficulties. A two-year delay was announced in January 2017, pushing the new delivery date to mid-2020. Many of the delays were caused by the failure to document work for the needed certification. Development costs had spiked to over $3 billion. Mitsubishi originally planned to use five flight test aircraft and two ground test aircraft but others were needed after the two-year delay.
The process was riddled with technical difficulties and failures. Engineering consultants found avionics problems like wiring that could have caused serious damage to the aircraft like flooding or an engine explosion. In December 2017 the MRJ test campaign was half complete and an additional flight test aircraft was incorporated into a redesign to join the campaign in 2018. Because of technical problems, the avionics bay had to be rearranged and the wiring rerouted, which was almost complete by January 2018.Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation tweet about test aircraft that was dismantled
In October 2018, Mitsubishi was sued by Bombardier on claims that ex-employees stole trade secrets to help the Japanese company achieve U.S. certification. A federal judge dismissed the claims in April 2019 and by then, the MRJ program had accumulated over 2,600 flight hours and began crosswind and climate testing. On June 24 of that year, Mitsubishi announced plans to buy the CRJ program from Bombardier and the sale was closed in 2020.
The program was renamed in June 2019 as the SpaceJet and the MRJ90 was renamed the SpaceJet M90 and a new variant, the SpaceJet M100 was introduced with a redesign that pushed back a service entry to 2023. In May 2020, Mitsubishi halved the program's budget for the year ending March 31, 2021, Flight Global reported. As the COVID-19 pandemic took its toll on the aviation industry, all work done outside of Japan, like the flight testing at Moses Lake, was moved to the company's headquarters in Nagoya.Mitsubishi SpaceJet
By October 2020, the company announced another budget reduction and a pause to most of the Spacejet-related activities, other than type certification documentation. Mitsubishi cut 95 percent of its employees in April 2021, leaving only 150 employees. The budget had been cut in half in 2020 and cut by another $194 million in 2021. In October 2021 the company notified the FAA that it did not intend to restart development. On April 17, 2022 the third prototype built, JA23MJ, was dismantled, according to Air Data News.
Mitsubishi officially announced on Feb. 6, 2023 that the program had been terminated. The company stated that with an uncertain regional jet market, the Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation subsidiary would be dissolved.