Two mechanics at Pratt &Whitney's Middletown, CT assembly facility inspect the PurePower engine, an essential component to Mitsubishi's new regional jet. Image: Pratt & Whitney Dependable Engines.

Mitsubishi Test Flight Indicates Potential Benefits for American Aircraft Manufacturing


In mid-November, the Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation conducted a successful test flight on the Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) 90. The MRJ90, the Mitsubishi Corporation’s first foray into aircraft manufacturing since the conclusion of the Second World War, represents an ambitious plan to break into a regional jet market traditionally dominated by Brazilian firm Embraer and Canada’s Bombardier. Although the MRJ90 is part of a larger national project backed by the Development Bank of Japan, Mitsubishi’s need for reliable components for the jet has forced it to turn toward American aircraft component manufacturers. Of the 27 tier-one suppliers for the MRJ90, 12 of the firms are located in the United States.

The successful test of the MRJ90 is especially welcome news for Pratt & Whitney Dependable Engines, makers of the advanced PW1200G that powers Mitsubishi’s new jet. The engine is constructed at Pratt &Whitney’s assembly plant in Middletown, CT. Colloquially referred to as the PurePower engine; the lightweight propulsion device is renowned for its lower fuel consumption, lower CO2 emissions, and noise dampening technology. Currently, Mitsubishi already has orders for over 200 MRJ90 aircraft, as well as options for another 184. As the sole provider of the PurePower engine, the employees at Pratt & Whitney’s Middletown plant stand to benefit greatly from Mitsubishi’s entry into the regional jet market.

The benefits of the Mitsubishi’s re-entry into aircraft manufacturing are also representative of the positive impact Asian economies have on the US aviation industry. Many experts predict that the airlines from the Asia Pacific region will purchase approximately 12,800 new commercial aircraft over the next 17 years, constituting over 36% of the global market. By comparison, North America and Europe, taken together, are predicted to constitute just 21% of the market over that same time. American aircraft manufacturers, such as Boeing, and jet engine and aircraft components manufacturers such as Pratt and Whitney, Rockwell Collins, and UTC Aerospace Systems will be looking to this surging demand for commercial passenger jets in the Asia Pacific to support future revenues.

Benjamin DeThomas is a research intern at the East-West Center in Washington and MA candidate at Georgetown University.