MOSES LAKE — Twenty-five hundred hours. That’s 104 days and change. And it’s how much time in the air it will take to get to the two new Mitsubishi Regional Jets (MRJ) sitting in a giant hangar here in Moses Lake certified as airworthy by the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau, according to Reina Endo, manager of the Moses Lake Flight Test Center. The two planes arrived from Japan in the last few weeks for rigorous flight testing, and Mitsubishi threw the hangar open on Sunday to show off the new planes — the company’s first passenger aircraft in nearly half a century. “This hangar is big enough to fit MRJs,” said Port of Moses Lake Commissioner Kent Jones. “Or one 777.” The Japanese-made medium-sized passenger jets are designed to carry anywhere from 70-88 passengers, and are designed to compete with other regional jets produced by Brazil’s Embraer and Canada’s Bombardier and operated by small, regional airlines across the world. According to Kenji Okimoto, vice president for corporate affairs for Mitsubishi Aircraft, about a dozen pilots — including some brought in from Japan — will spend the next two-to-three years putting the MRJ through it paces in the skies above Moses Lake. The company hope to deliver the first MRJs to customers in 2018. “The point of the flight testing is to find out the basic characteristics of the aircraft,” he said, adding that he couldn’t disclose what would be included in much of the actual flight testing program. According to Endo, aircraft Number 4 — one of the two MRJs currently in Moses Lake — will fly to Elgin Air Force Base in Florida early next year for a series of static tests in a special climate-controlled hangar. “It’s a cold soak,” Endo said. “The air in the hanger will be lowered to below zero and then we’ll take a look at the impact of the climate on the aircraft.” Currently, Mitsubishi will only test the 92-passenger model in Moses Lake. If the program goes well, the company may decide to test the smaller model here as well. Endo said.
Charles H. Featherstone can be reached via email at email@example.com.