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First In A Series: Aircraft Way Ahead Of Their Time
The Mitsubishi MU-2
Prestart checklist complete, BATTERY SELECT SWITCH- as required, SRL switches-on, both run/crank switches-RUN, EGT-check, FEATHER VALVE CHECK - accomplish, Power levers-half inch forward of flight idle, Condition levers-taxi, START SELECTOR SWITCH-as required, PROPS- clear and on locks, ENGINE START-ACCOMPLISH. With that, the 776HP Garrett’s come to life on one of the most interesting turboprops to ever come to market.
How it got started
This amazing underrated Japanese twin-engine turbo-prop took its first flight in the early fall of 1963.
Produced by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in partnership with Mooney Aircraft of Texas until 1986 with just a little over 700 aircraft completed.
The main idea for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries was to take the twin-engine turbo-prop to the next level, as in making Jet-like type of performance for turbo-prop prices. Retaining good low-speed handling and approach speeds was crucial. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries did this by utilizing full-span, double-slotted flaps. Knowing this set up would take up space on the trailing edge of the wing, Mitsubishi designed spoilers into the wing, giving the MU-2 no real adverse yaw since there are no ailerons to create it.
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The flaps are so effective it went against typical engine out procedures in that flaps are not to be reduced during an engine out which flew in the face of the piston-powered engine out procedures. This may have contributed to the bad reputation the MU-2 spent the rest of its life trying to prove was wrong.
Essentially the MU-2 is very much like a Jet aircraft and most pilots who were coming from piston-powered aircraft were just not ready to fly the MU-2 which as a high-performance aircraft was literally above other turbo-prop aircraft. With the accident rate on MU-2’s creeping up the FAA took a hard look at the aircraft's certificate. They found nothing wrong with the design, but that pilots needed better training and that it would be in the best interest of safety to have all MU-2 pilots complete type-rated like training in the aircraft.
Flying the MU-2
The MU-2 flies like a Jet and needs to be treated and handled like one. What does that mean? It means numbers, numbers, and numbers. It must be flown by the numbers to get predictable results. In doing so a pilot will be rewarded with an amazing turbo-prop aircraft with Jet-like performance. Typical cruise speeds are 280KTAS to 310KTAS on approximately 68-78GPH. The MU-2 shines on trips up to 500NM where it competes for the neck to neck with Jets.
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Engine out procedures as we mentioned earlier go against piston-powered training. On the MU-2 they are a non-event if procedures are followed, leaving flaps out and accelerating to VYSE before any flap retraction and correct rudder input is essential before even retracting the gear. After completing clean-up, the MU-2 will climb on one engine at 500 fpm.
Legacy and Opinion
For the money, dollar for dollar you almost can’t match the economic benefits of the MU-2. The size of its cabin class interior with seating up to almost a dozen passengers, its speed and the twin Honeywell engines with a TBO of 5,400 hours. After all these years Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is still in it to win it with its continuing support of the airframes and training provided with SimCom at their Orlando FL, Lee Vista Training Center. It is a shame that the economics of aircraft production don’t support the restarting of the production line. This aircraft was way ahead of its time and truly took turbo props to the next level of performance. The MU-2 is the closest thing to flying a Jet without Jet expenses.
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