MIAMI — Japan’s Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp. finally rolled out its flagship Mitsubishi Regional Jet in Nagoya, after a four-year delay, during a livestreamed event on October 18. The jet, which comes in 70- and 90-seat versions, was originally shown as a mockup at the Paris Air Show back in 2007.
The MRJ was launched in March 2008, and the first flight was originally scheduled for the second quarter of 2012. After two delays, the company said the jet’s first flight would be by summer 2015, with deliveries set for summer 2019.
Hideaki Omiya, chairman of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, said the MRJ represented a dream for Japan. “This is Japan’s first domestically produced aircraft” since the NAMC YS-11 turboprop more than 50 years ago, he said. “At that time, Japan had recovered from a bad economy and was living in an era where made in Japan products were available around the world.”
But having a dream alone can’t run a business, said Omiya. “To realize the dream of a domestically built aircraft, there were numerous obstacles to overcome,” he said. “We had to bear the risk that it could hurt the company. In March 2008, the MRJ was officially launched and faced difficulties, but today we can now present the aircraft to you despite the obstacles.”
Japan’s ANA is the launch customer of the MRJ. In remarks at the ceremony, airline President Shinichiro Ito said that Mitsubishi faced difficulties and challenges with the MJR. “But you have overcome them to have this aircraft roll out today,” he said. “In 2017, we will receive the first aircraft and I can’t wait for the great honor that our company is the first one in the world to receive it.
“The pain of labor in birth is a harbinger of completing a fantastic aircraft with premium technology,” said Ito. “We are looking forward to the day when the aircraft flies high in the sky.”
In the press conference, Mitsubishi disclosed that the second and third aircraft are already in production. The test program will consist of 7 test aircraft – five in the air and two on the ground.
Room to Compete
Despite existing competition from jets produced by Bombardier and Embraer and new competition from the upcoming Embraer E-2, Mitsubishi feels that as regional carriers shed their 50-seat jets to upsize and major airlines continue to transfer mainline routes, the demand for 70 to 90-seat aircraft will continue to grow. The aircraft’s range out of Denver covers the continental U.S., while out of Paris, it covers most of Europe and the top part of North Africa.
Mitsubishi has 171 firm, 160 option and four purchase rights for its MRJ family. This includes 15 firm and 10 option from Japan’s ANA, 50 firm and 50 option from St. Louis-based Trans States Holdings and 100 firm and 100 options from St. George, Utah-based SkyWest, Inc. It has also signed a letter of intent with Japan Airlines for 32 MRJs and a definitive agreement with Eastern Air Lines Group for 20 MRJ90s.