Image courtesy: Mitsubishi

Coverage by Chris Sloan

PARIS — Mitsubishi has unveiled the ambitious plan for its Regional Jet program, now rebranded as SpaceJet. The new jetliner is not the latest to come to the market, but also marks the debut of Mitsubishi as a commercial aircraft manufacturer.

Previously marketed as the Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ), the development program has been marred with delays, as the first delivery to launch customer All Nippon Airways is now slated for 2020, two years over its expected entry into service.

Mitsubishi CEO Hisakazu Mizutani said at the Mitsubishi press conference. “The Market is aligning in our favour. With SpaceJet, passengers get unparalleled comfort and airlines get improved performance. Our company starts a new chapter today.”

“This journey hasn’t been easy. We encountered challenges and delays but the aircraft program isn’t only about making an aeroplane. It’s about making a company and a team.”

“Our name of M90 and M100 doesn’t reflect the number of seats but represents symbols of improvement. It’s a priority for us to develop the aerospace industry in Japan,” Mizutani said.

Steve Haro, Mitsubishi Aircraft Head of Marketing also said, “Our family will change the status quo of the regional jet industry. This area has been neglected and lacking in innovation. Airline customers and passengers have been suffering and mistreated due to lack of attention.”

Mitsubishi considers North America as its largest market, followed by Europe and Asia. The company states that 96% of the airports in the United States are served by regional jets, and that 63% are only served by this type of aircraft. Just in 2018, American carriers opened over 110 new routes operated by regional jets.

Alex Bellamy, Mitsubishi Aircraft, Chief Development Officer said “We are transforming at the right moment when the regional jet category is changing. We are well positioned for the next leadership change.”

“The urrent regional aircraft don’t deliver on passenger experience despite half of the travelling public in America fly this way. The SpaceJet M100 is a way to break through and jump ahead of our competition. It’s critical we build our presence in the US where the majority of RJ aircraft is,” Bellamy said.

“[The] Scope clause won’t move so we need to redefine our strategy: The SpaceJet M100 optimized for the US. The strain of scope had forced innovation and will be stronger for the global market. Next hurdle is building support services. We must make the regional jet business sustainable for all,” Bellamy concluded.

David Barrow, Head of Global Strategy & Business Development, Mitsubishi Aircraft said “The challenges we’ve been through and lessons we have learned make us believe we can deliver on SpaceJet.”

“Two key objectives include extending existing packages and adding new partnerships. We have rebuilt our partnerships to meet 2020 entry into service deadline.”

“The majority of Regional Jets RJs are over 12 years. This is a huge opportunity for us. Fuel prices are going to rise so warmed over aircraft aren’t an answer. Environmental standards matter. Pilot shortage drives larger aircraft with fewer pilots available.”

“[The] Passenger Experience has declined. Only two choices now, a small cabin with better economics or larger aircraft with worse economics. We are the end of compromise. We want to honour our passengers by creating more space and transition them from chaos to a peaceful environment.  Room for everyone to bring onboard a bag. A wider seat at 18.5” in the economy than any RJ and better than mainline as well.”

“It’s all about connecting. By 2020, 50% of business travellers will be millennials. Environmental footprint and respect make us best in class for sustainability. There is the ability to extend range beyond 2,000 miles.”

Mitsubishi is offering a clean-sheet regional jetliner intended to cater the needs of the North American market. Also, with the eventual improvements in the range of the aircraft, the M90 and M100 would be able to operate in less dense, medium-haul routes, opening new opportunities of sales.

Time will tell whether the Spacejet will pick up any more orders, which currently stand at 213 firm orders plus 194 options, all of them for the M90.