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RAA 2014: Mitsubishi looks for further inroads into North American markets

North America holds a lion’s share of regional jet operations accounting for a whopping 56% of the total market of 3,276 RJs – a fact that is not lost on Mitsubishi Aircraft as it eyes the potential for new customers for MRJ70 and MRJ90 aircraft, especially as two of its three launch customers are in North America.

The MRJ is expected to play a “significant role” in supplying replacements for 50 seat RJs as they are gradually being phased out of the market, said MRJ head of marketing, Hideyuki Kamiya. The MRJ is offered in configurations between 76 and 88 seats. Mitsubishi says the aircraft, with its composite materials and “cutting edge technology” will offer a 20% reduction in fuel compared to other regional jets currently in the market. The programme was launched in 2008.

The new aircraft will be powered by PW1200G engine which is being touted as providing greater efficiency in operating costs and environmental benefits. The expected delivery of the first engine in April has been bumped up to within the next few weeks, according to Pratt & Whitney officials. Mitsubishi described this as a “minor issue,” not expected to impact the production schedule.

The company is working with seven test flight aircraft – five for flight and two for ground tests, including static and fatigue strength testing. The vertical stabilizer and the pylon were recently delivered for the first flight test aircraft, which is ready for the wings to be attached.

Trans States Airlines, which has 50 firm orders with 50 options for the MRJ, originally expected first delivery of the new aircraft this year. But the first flight was pushed to the second quarter of 2015 with first delivery planned for the second quarter of 2017 – or perhaps later.

“We are disappointed in the delays but we are excited about the technology,” Trans States Holdings president Rick Leach told LARA earlier this year.

SkyWest, another North American customer, has orders for 100 with options for an additional 100. Initially, the first delivery to the company was set for 2017 but is not likely to happen until 2018.

Launch customer All Nippon Airlines (ANA), with an order for 15 and options for 10, is expected to take delivery of the first MRJ to enter service in 2017.

Mitsubishi holds a total of 325 orders. “We are still talking to potential customers,” noted Kamiya.

Sandra Arnoult, US correspondent, Low-Fare & Regional Airlines/LARAnews.net
St Louis, Missouri, USA

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