To recover the lost 50 years, “MRJ” has company’s mind aboard
Mr. Shigefumi Tatsumi’s speech received most attention at the Location Seminar of Siga Ryuo Industrial Park held in Shiga prefecture on December 3, 2015. He is the Head of Nagoya Aerospace Systems Works and a senior vice president of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. which gained people’s recognition for its MRJ’s debut flight.
He is an elite corporate mamber who has engaged in developing aircrafts since he joined in Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in 1981. MRJ’s first flight increased audience’s attention.
He began his speech with introducing the birth of aircrafts and the history of aircraft development in Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.
He spoke about the Wright Brothers who developed and flied the first aircraft in North Carolina in the United States in 1903.
“Of special significance is that they had not only a dream of flying a plane but also a high motivation to do business with planes.”
He said that the Wright Brother’s idea was the “starting point for manufacturing”.
The first aircraft Mitsubishi Heavy Industries made was the “Mitsubishi 1MF” which made its maiden flight in 1921.
Also, the film director, Hayao Miyazaki famously featured Mr. Jiro Horikoshi, who produced “Zero fighter” in the former Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, in his last animated feature film of “The Wind Rises”.
After making the Mitsubishi 1MF, the company had manufactured naval aircrafts and army aircrafts such as the Mitsubishi A6M “Zero” fighter and the Mitsubishi K-67, “Hiryu” till the end of World War II.
The company had been prohibited to manufacture aircrafts for seven years after the war. After the ban was lifted, the company had produced Self-Defense Force jets under “license” of US jet fighters. After that, as the company intended to domestically produce trainer aircrafts and fighter jets, it developed the supersonic jet trainer aircraft, “Mitsubishi T2” in 1970s.
Manufacturing technique for F-2 handed down until now
The company developed a fighter called “F-2” in the 1990s. Mr. Tatsumi told that the very “F-2” was an important aircraft in fact.
According to him, “The F2 fighter used compound material in all of its wings, which was the technology Mitsubishi Heavy Industries developed and completed for the first time in the world. This technology is handed down to the current Mitsubishi’s technology for B-787 which uses compound material in its main wings.
Carbon fiber was used for the compound material and American aircraft manufacturers didn’t have this technology at that time.
The company had an offer from US to bring back this technology to the country as “joint development by Japan and US”. As a result, US brought back this technology in exchange of various technologies.”
Mr. Tatsumi also spoke about the commercial airplanes the company had developed, including the first one in Japan, “YS-11”.
“Senior colleagues who had produced air frame before World War II were still working and they had produced Y-11. The aircraft was really good, but it went out of production because of failure in sales. After that, several nice commercial airplanes were developed, but failed in sales again.”
Currently, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries produces the bodies of B-767 and 777 and the main wings of 787 as an International joint development with Boeing. Such activities have developed the company’s technologies.
According to Mr. Tatsumi, current MRJ is the final shape of those technologies.
Also, he spoke about a huge development cost which is a feature for the aircraft industries.
“A-380”, the world biggest passenger plane costed 1,000bn yen only for its development cost. “International joint development” works to disperse this risk.
Also, he pointed out the small-sized market as a problem facing the Japanese aircraft industry. The Japanese aircraft market is valued at 1,500bn yen, corresponding to 10% of the US market.
But, Mr. Tatsumi showed a willingness to enter into the aircraft markets in the world which remarkably have potential for growth.
To recover the lost 50 years
Toward the end of his speech, he made a powerful statement. “More than 50 years have already passed since the YS-11 flied for the first time on August 30 in 1962. The senior colleagues who developed YS-11 have already left the company. Japan has a 50 years’ blank in development of commercial airplanes. Current aircraft industries are compared to a pyramid structure, where Japanese heavy industries had developed their business as a part of Boeing and Airbus. A business model changes depending on whether the company is belonging to the pyramid as one of them or is standing at the top of the pyramid. So, in order to grow our business, we need to be at the top of the pyramid. We will recover the 50 years we lost as a completed aircraft manufacturer.”
His message of “recovering the lost 50 years” was so inspirational to remind us of the Japan’s mind as a (previous) large manufacturing nation.
（Edited By O.Sasaki）