COVER STORY: Sky’s the Limit!
Caption: Artist’s impression of the Mitsubishi Regional Jet
Credit: COURTESY OF MITSUBISHI AIRCRAFT CORPORATION
Japanese technology is playing a major role in the global development of next-generation passenger planes. The Japan Journal recently visited Toray and Mitsubishi Aircraft, which have some innovative aerospace technologies.
The Boeing 787 Dreamliner lands in the United Kingdom for the first time, at the Farnborough International Air Show, 18 July, 2010.
The Boeing 787 Dreamliner, Boeing’s new passenger plane, made its appearance at an air show in the United Kingdom this July. One of its primary features is its environmental performance. A drastic reduction of body weight was one of the factors that have given the Dreamliner a range of more than 15,000 kilometers, an impressive figure for a twin-engine aircraft and one more usually associated with a jumbo jet. Contributing to this achievement is Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic (CFRP), developed by Toray, which is used for 50% of the body of the plane. Among the key features of CFRP, it has a quarter of the weight of steel, close to ten times the durability of steel, and does not rust.
A roll of carbon fiber material produced by Toray
“To maintain the durable quality of CFRP, we enforce strict quality improvement and management that even controls structural defects on the nano level,” says Minoru Yoshinaga, senior director of the Manufacturing Division at Toray Industries.“I believe that it was this policy that won us the bid.”
Mitsubishi Regional Jet
The airline industry, hard hit by rising fuel prices and declining passenger numbers, is now focusing its attention on regional jets that have fewer seats and better fuel efficiency. Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation has followed this trend, launching the Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) Project in spring of 2008, and is developing the next generation regional jet. This is the first development of a commercial passenger aircraft in Japan in approximately forty years, following the production of the YS-11, the manufacturing of which finished in 1973.
The MRJ uses CFRP in the empennage with the horizontal and vertical tails to reduce body weight. In addition, the installation of a new type of engine that performs at 12–15% higher fuel efficiency compared to conventional engines of the same size has created synergies that improve the plane’s fuel efficiency by more than 20% compared to conventional jet aircraft in the same class. The MRJ has also adopted slim seats in its cabin, offering seating comfort, more leg space than conventional seats do, and a roomier cabin.
“Because the MRJ incorporates the latest technology, we have already received 125 orders, despite being in the development phase,” says Hiroshi Oda of the Public Relations Office at Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation.
“We are planning to conduct the first flight in 2012 and the first delivery is scheduled in 2014.”