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Mitsubishi to test aircraft in Roswell

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A range of testing of the SpaceJet M90 is expected to occur at the Roswell Air Center in early 2020 by flight crews with the Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp. They used the Roswell airfield in April for earlier tests of the aircraft, once known as the Mitsubishi Regional Jet or MRJ 90. (Submitted Photo)

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An international aircraft manufacturer will test some of its aircraft in Roswell in 2020, although the U.S. Navy will not return for military pilot training, at least for the early part of the coming year.

Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp., which has its primary headquarters in Japan and a U.S. headquarters in Renton, Washington, has told Roswell Air Center staff that they will conduct test flights of a regional passenger jet from February to April.

Air Center Director Scott Stark said that two or three Mitsubishi SpaceJet M90s are expected to go through a range of tests at the airfield as the company seeks certification from the Federal Aviation Administration.

“Good weather, our ungrooved runway, airspace availability, (the) FAA control tower and support services provided by AvFlight are all essential to successful flight testing,” said Stark. “The past flight testing deployments to Roswell have gone very well for Mitsubishi. They have said the Air Center and AvFlight ‘hit it out of the park’ with the support offered.”

In earlier conversations, Air Center staff have said the Roswell airport (ROW) is one of only a handful in the United States to have an ungrooved runway, which new types of aircraft need to test brakes on.

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Stark said about 30 Mitsubishi employees are expected to accompany each jet during its upcoming tests. He added that the aircraft corporation has conducted flight tests in Roswell three times before.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, complete certification of a new type of aircraft can take five to nine years.

Although Stark said he could not estimate the dollar amount Mitsubishi will spend while here, he said that it would benefit not only the Air Center and AV Flight, but also American Airlines, because Mitsubishi employees will fly into Roswell on the airline.

According to a Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp. brochure, the SpaceJet, known during its development as the Mitsubishi Regional Jet, or MRJ, has an M90 and M100 version. The corporation markets the SpaceJet as operating at less costs than comparable jets while offering more benefits to passengers to enhance airline carrier revenues. The M90 has from 78 to 92 seats, while the M100 has 70 to 88 seats.

Even as Mitsubishi is returning to Roswell, the U.S. Navy has decided not to conduct its basic pilot training for military pilots at the Air Center in early 2020.

Stark said that he was informed recently that the pilot training group from the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi, Texas, does not have the budget to train in Roswell this year. The Training Air Wing 4 conducted training flights in Roswell in 2019, as well as in some previous years.

In explaining why Roswell was chosen in 2019, Navy officers said that Roswell has less fog than the Gulf Coast area during the early months of the year, allowing them to conduct many more training missions.

Stark said he expects that the Navy flight trainers and the student pilots, which come from various branches of the military, will return in the future.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.