China, Japan and Russia developing new commercial airliners
First aircraft design is not that easy
Comac and Sukhoi planes are having problems; Mitsubishi needs some pax amenities
This 2017 headline may have been a bit premature. It is one thing to design and build a commercial aircraft from scratch, but the real test is proving that this complex machine meets international certification standards. China, Japan and Russia are sophisticated countries and have demonstrated competence to manufacture a number of goods and machinery. Recent news seems to question whether the threats are ready to enter the aerospace sales market:
Despite 10 years of development and a wealth of support from foreign firms, China’s efforts to gain entry into Western markets with an indigenous airliner continue to progress slowly as Comac struggles to bring its ambitious C919 project in line with U.S. Federal Aviation Administration requirements.
According to a source working closely with Comac who spoke with AIN on condition of anonymity, engineers have begun re-evaluating the C919’s flight-deck design to satisfy Part 25.1302 of the Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR).
“Section 1302 is quite strict on human factors and necessary for FAA certification, but it’s not required by the CAAC,’’ he told AIN. ”So now there is a conflict between whether they have to meet 1302 requirements or not. If Comac wants to sell aircraft outside of China…there is always the constant debate of how much of the requirements they need to comply with coupled with how many design changes are necessary and how much money needs to be spent.’’
Comac’s challenges in meeting the certification procedures required to enable sale in the U.S. reflect a larger problem plaguing the aerospace manufacturer, namely technical know-how. While foreign experts in China transfer manufacturing knowledge and R&D capabilities, communication problems, misinterpretation of FAA requirements, and limited local skills have significantly delayed progress.
The challenges have become evident as the C919 continues to undergo further envelope expansion testing at its Shanghai facility and the team there encounters repeated setbacks due to disruptions in design changes and a shortage of local expertise.
“As always, they’re learning, which means it’s going to take longer,’’ said the source. “It’s not like you are working with Airbus or Boeing who can go through this process within an 18-month time span. You need to account for the learning curve.’’
While Comac slowly moves towards improving its overall technological capabilities, repeated delays and reliance on foreign assistance will remain for some time, raising doubts that the Chinese can develop an indigenous alternative to the C919’s CFM Leap-1C engines within a decade.
CONTRARY ARTICLE: Comac gets going with home grown aircraft programmes
Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp. (MITAC)’s announced it will redesign its MRJ70 and launch the M100 SpaceJet instead, to fit into the changing market environment.
Initially, Mitsubishi Aircraft set the beginning for its MRJ90 90-seat aircraft. This program continues towards a 2020 entry-into-service and eventually will get similar treatment, with the new plane being designated the MRJ200. In the meantime, the MRJ90 is rebranded the M90 SpaceJet.
Later on, the aircraft manufacturer launched the second plane, the MRJ70, which should have followed the MRJ90 in 18 months. Now, when being evolutionized, the M100’s target EIS is 2023, later than the 2022 planned EIS for the MRJ70. The extra time is needed because of the extent of the redesign.
What Will be Changed?
The MRJ was designed with 2×2 seating. When designed, a different era of overhead bins existed, which by today’s standards are small.
“In tackling the enhancements for the MRJ70, MITAC sought to improve the passenger experience, creating more space at every touch point, designing larger bins for baggage space for every single passenger, wheels first, in three classes,” says Steve Haro, MITAC’s VP and Head of Global Marketing and Strategy.
With the bin redesign, the M100 can accommodate 20 more bags than E175-E1 and 30 more than CRJ900, he said.
The seats at 18 ½ inches wide, slightly more than the E-Jet and significantly wider than the CRJ.
MITAC also added space to the lavatory, reversing a trend at the mainline carriers where “Space Saver” lavs are installed on the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737, drawing complaints from passengers and crews alike.
Market Demand and Timing
MITAC’s parent, Mitsubishi, just concluded a new market demand study in which it sees a need for 5,100 aircraft under 100 seats between 2019-2039. By region, 39% or 2,027 in North America. Europe would account for 14%. The home market, Japan, accounts for only 1%.
No OEM segments the 70-100 seat sector in its forecast, but Japan Aircraft Development Corp. forecasts the 60-99 seat sector. In its 2018 forecast, it sees a 20 year demand for 2,794 aircraft, more conservative than MHI.
Moscow (AFP) – The Sukhoi Superjet 100 was Russia’s first post-Soviet passenger plane and was intended to revive the country’s civil aviation industry.
But it has been dogged with problems, including technical issues.
Here is an overview of the jet involved in a runway blaze in Moscow on Sunday in which 41 people died:
– Great expectations –
The mid-range airliner made its first commercial flight in 2011. Ahead of its launch, Sukhoi said it wanted to win 20 percent of the global market in regional passenger planes.
Sukhoi, part of state corporation Russian Technologies, is renowned for military planes.
The aircraft manufacturer traces its history back to the 1930s in the Soviet Union and is based in the remote far eastern city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur.
The Superjet is produced in partnership with Italy’s Alenia Aermacchi, which is part of the aerospace and defence giant Finmeccanica.
French defence group Thales developed the electronic equipment on board while the landing gear was created by France’s Safran Aircraft Engines, which also designed and produces the engines jointly with a Russian partner.
Carrying up to 98 passengers for distances of up to 4,600 kilometres (1,800 miles), the plane was designed to compete with similar aircraft produced by Brazil’s Embraer and Canada’s Bombardier.
– Setbacks –
Soon after its launch, a Superjet performing at an Indonesian air show in 2012 slammed into a volcano, killing all 45 people on board.
Officials in Indonesia blamed the crash on pilot error.
Technical issues have also occurred, including problems with the Superjet 100’s landing gear.
Russia’s aviation agency has periodically grounded them as a result.
The few international airlines to have ordered the plane have complained about problems with getting spare parts in time.
Many in the industry view the plane as unreliable.
The planes are still flown by Mexico’s low-cost Interjet but have been dropped by Ireland’s CityJet, which also leased planes to Brussels Airlines.
Sunday’s crash landing has not prompted Russia to ground Sukhoi Superjet planes.
“There is no reason” to do this, said Transport Minister Yevgeny Ditrikh, quoted by the Interfax news agency.
– Aeroflot connection –
National carrier Aeroflot has been under pressure for decades from the government to add more Russian planes to its fleet.
It has invested in Sukhoi Superjet 100 jets, as have several regional Russian airlines.
“Billions of dollars have been invested in this project and continue to be invested,” said aviation expert Boris Rybak of Infomost Consulting airline consultancy.
“The vast majority of these planes are in service in Russia… Aeroflot now has 50 Superjet-100s and it has signed a contract for 35 more.”
Aeroflot’s fleet of aircraft also includes Airbus and Boeing planes.
Aeroflot used to have a troubled safety record, but since post-Soviet times it has modernised and has a safe, reliable fleet of aircraft.
Clearly, Boeing (B-737 Max 8) and Airbus (A380) are recovering, maybe even vulnerable, after their recent failures. Some of the “experts,” who have forecast the crashing of the duopoly, did not fully recognize the learning curve involved in ab initio aircraft development.
Even the Russian candidate, which included the technology from Alenia Aermacchi, Finmeccanica, Thales and Safran, was unable to shorten its learning curve. Sukhoi, which was first to market, appears to have the weakest safety record. China is having its problems. Japan looks to have the best ship, but still is sorting out the passenger aspects of the plane.
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