Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. aborted the maiden test flight to the U.S. of its regional jet, Japan's first domestically developed model in decades, after trouble with an onboard system about an hour into the trip.
"We came to recognize that the air management system needs to be inspected during the flight," Mitsubishi said Saturday in a statement. "We then decided to return the aircraft to Nagoya Airfield."
The plane landed safely at 12:50 p.m. local time in Nagoya, where it left at 11:47 a.m. en route to Moses Lake in Washington. Mitsubishi Aircraft spokeswoman Miho Takahashi didn't have any initial details on the results of the inspection. The trial will be rescheduled once the checkup is complete, Mitsubishi said.
Saturday's disrupted journey underscored the challenges in building and testing new passenger aircraft, which can bedevil even long-established planemakers such as Boeing Co. and Airbus Group SE. The Mitsubishi Regional Jet began flight trials in November, then had its delivery date postponed a fourth time - a one-year delay to mid-2018.
The MRJ, which can seat as many as 92 people, is the first of four that Mitsubishi will fly to U.S. for testing as the company works toward getting certification in the world's largest economy.
Moses Lake, in remote central Washington, is home to a Boeing testing and evaluation facility. The local airport has a runway long enough to accommodate military jets, and the area is known for clear skies.
Japan's last locally produced passenger aircraft was the YS-11, a turboprop made by Nihon Aircraft Manufacturing Corp., a consortium that included Mitsubishi Heavy, Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd. and Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. Production was stopped in 1974 after 182 of the planes were sold.
Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp., a unit of Mitsubishi Heavy, is trying break the regional-jet duopoly of Brazil's Embraer SA and Canada's Bombardier Inc. Mitsubishi Aircraft is getting a boost as Bombardier focuses on building CSeries jets that will be able to carry as many as 160 passengers, rather than renew its lineup of planes with fewer than 100 seats.