The twin-engine turboprop, designed to carry 60 or so passengers on short hauls, was a technical success but a market failure, in part because the consortium handling the project had little knowledge of how to sell a plane to the world's airlines. The Mitsubishi Heavy Industry (MHI) Model YS-11 is a two-engine turboprop aircraft designed to carry up to 59 passengers plus the pilot and copilot. The Nihon YS-11 is a twin-engine airplane powered by Rolls Royce Dart engines. The airplane was manufactured in Japan by Nihon Industries in the 1960's. As certified, there are five YS-11 models: the Model YS-11, YS-11A-200, -300, -500 and -600. All U.S. operators use the Model YS-11-200, -300, or -600 airplanes. Only 182 planes were built between the start of commercial production in 1965 and 1973 when Tokyo finally pulled the plug on the program.
A ban on aircraft production during the U.S. occupation after World War II kept Japan out of the aerospace sector until 1952, at which time the country became involved in licensed production of military aircraft, followed by subcontracting work. Japan's attempts to take its innovative skills and subcontracting experience to the level of civil airframe competitor have been largely unsuccessful, evident in the country's YS-11 regional aircraft program and the numerous delays in Japan's plan to build a successor to the YS-11.
The promotion of cooperative R&D by the Japanese government started in 1959, when the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) and aircraft makers launched the YS-11 turboprop aircraft development project. The YS-11 project started in 1959 when Nippon Aircraft Manufacturing Corporation (NAMC) was established. The NAMC was a consortium of six aircraft fuselage-manufacturing companies. Three were giant conglomerates: MHI, KHI, and FHI25 and two were medium-size corporations: Nippi and Showa Aircraft Industries. The first YS-11 test plane was produced in 1962. The production model received the FAA26 certification in 1964. The YS-11 started flying regular commercial routes the following year.
The YS-11, a Japanese-designed 64-seat passenger turboprop developed in the 1960s, was deemed technically sound. The Model YS-11 cargo capacity and operating costs were favorable for specific markets. Users can take advantage of the unique services provided by the Model YS-11 operators and hold prices down, which benefits the public.
The divided Japanese government could not set up any financing scheme that resulted in massive deficits faced by the NAMC consortium that made the YS-11. The consortium itself had to, instead, finance the sales for customers. But private banks were reluctant to set up a financial scheme for NAMC without the guarantee of the Japanese government. The program incurred huge losses, the government was saddled with huge losses since it had agreed to cover all of the YS-11's development costs and part of the production costs.
Few orders materialized because of market demand for jet-powered aircraft and the lack of global product support. Based solely on operational reasons, All Nippon Airways (ANA) elected to import the F-27 Fokker Friendship turboprop transport from the Netherlands instead of buying the domestically produced YS-11, thus sidelining MITI's priorities. Another major Japanese airline Japan Airlines (JAL), refused to buy YS-11. The program incurred huge losses, and at the close of production in 1973, only 182 aircraft had been produced. Ultimately Mitsubishi sold 161 YS-11s to customers in seven countries, but sustained a $600-million loss on the program.
As a result, Japanese airlines import their aircraft, mostly from the United States. Japan has been the largest market for U.S. aerospace exports since 2003, accounting for $26.3 billion in exports from 2003-2006.
Japan's experience with the YS-11 -- the first and, to date, the only civilian plane designed and built in Japan -- provided an early challenge to the idea that government guidance and funding sooner or later would catapult domestic manufacturers into the international ranks of commercial aircraft prime contractors.
The YS-11 postmortem convinced aerospace policy planners of the need to change the funding arrangements for future government-backed commercial aircraft projects. Tokyo, they decided in fairly quick order, would provide financing only during the preproduction stage. Moreover, it would cover just half or so of these costs. Manufacturers would have to supply the other part as well as shoulder the costs and associated risks of production and marketing on their own.
In the end, though, the results of the YS-11 project did not shake the fundamental belief of MITI bureaucrats and lead program participants MHI, KHI and FHI that a world-class commercial aircraft industry was just a matter of time. The YS-11 experience also did not alter the internal consensus that the indigenous development strategy would work.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., now maintains the airworthiness certification responsibilities for the airplane. One hundred eighty-eight YS-11 airplanes were manufactured. As of 1990 pproximately 150 of them were still operating around the world. The FAA's January 1990 Air Carrier Aircraft Utilization and Propulsion Reliability Report listed 21 YS-11's in service in the United States. These aircraft are operated by three U.S. companies for passenger and cargo transport.
The MHI records indicate almost all Model YS-11s are operated in Asia. The YS- 11 and YS- 11A airplanes have not been in production since 1974. Although MHI provides product support to the YS- 11 fleet it is not engaged in any commercial airline business that would compensate for additional certification effort.
As of 2000 no YS-11 or YS- 11A airplane was being operated in the United States. While the FAA Registry still lists 17 YS- 11 or YS- 11A airplanes, not one was being operated in the United States. This was due, in part, to the cost that would have been incurred by operators to comply with other Airworthiness Directives such as the installation of TCAS and a baggage compartment fire extinguishing system. The possibility of such airplanes ever returning to cargo service, much less passenger service in the United States, is virtually non-existent.
As of 2002 single U.S. operator, Texas based cargo company "Ferreteria E Imploementos," operated two Model YS-11 airplanes, serial number (S/N) 2173 and 2071, and had two additional Model YS-11 airplanes in storage, S/N 2050 and 2053. The newest airplane among these four was manufactured in 1973. The four Model YS-11 fuel systems are the same, with the exception of S/N 2173, which has an added feature of a bag tank. The two Model YS-11 airplanes in operation have a maximum monthly utilization of less than 35 hours and a maximum yearly utilization of less than 150 hours.
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