Japan Shows Off First Plane Production In 40 Years
Photo courtesy of Mitsubishi
You know Boeing, you know Airbus.
You know Bombardier, you know Embraer.
Did you know Mitsubishi?
The company now more famous for automobiles was once the centerpiece of a thriving Japanese aviation industry. But Mitsubishi took a big step back today toward helping Japan reclaim a part of its history, running a successful maiden test flight of its new Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ).
The 114-foot, twin engine jet took off from Nagoya Airport in Tokyo and flew for 90 minutes.
"The success of this first flight marks the beginning of a new era for the Japanese aviation industry and we are very pleased,” Japanese government Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters after the flight.
The MRJ was custom-built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, and the significance of both today’s flight and who the aircraft was built by is certainly not lost on aviation buffs nor historians nor a combination of the two.
It was Mitsubishi Heavy which built the Japanese “Zero” fighter jets that were used by Japan’s military during World War II. The image of the plane, with the Rising Sun emblem, is certainly ingrained in the minds of many who have seen archival footage from the war, including the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
When the war in the Pacific Theater ended in 1945 following the Japanese surrender, the U.S. military – which occupied the country and helped rebuilt it – banned Japanese firms from developing and manufacturing their own aircraft.
When Japan was allowed to produce its own planes, it introduced the YS-11 turboprop in 1962 and manufactured it until 1971 – the last year it built and manufactured its own aircraft.
So today’s flight had historical significance.
Mitsubishi says the new MRJ will compete in the burgeoning regional jet market with Bombardier and Embraer. It will have between 80 and 100 seats and is capable of flying more than 2,000 miles.
The plane marks a new chapter for Japan’s aviation sector, which last debuted a commercial airliner in 1962: the YS-11 turboprop, which was discontinued about a decade later.
The project reflects a desire to turn Japan's modern engineering and manufacturing prowess into a top-tier aircraft industry.
According to NBC News, Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation has more than 300 orders so far, including 20 for the new Eastern Air Lines in the U.S.
Here’s a look at how the maiden voyage of the MRJ went.
More by Rich Thomaselli
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