ANA orders Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ)

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Japan’s All Nippon Airways (ANA) has decided to order up to 25 Mitsubishi Regional Jets (MRJ), which means the aircraft’s manufacturer now appears likely to commit to formally launching the MRJ programme.

An ANA spokesman in Tokyo says the Star Alliance carrier’s board met earlier today and decided it will place a firm order for 15 MRJ90s with options for 10 more and the first delivery will be in late 2013 or early 2014.

The company behind the proposed programme, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), has said it will complete its first aircraft for delivery in 2012.

ANA’s spokesman was unable to confirm if ANA will be the first to fly the MRJ90 but says its order is significant because ANA is the programme’s launch customer.

The Japanese carrier plans to operate the aircraft on domestic routes from places such as Nagoya but it has no plan to operate the aircraft from Japan’s main domestic airport, Tokyo Haneda, because traffic out of there is large enough to support Boeing 737s.

The MRJ will fill a void in ANA’s fleet because currently it has no regional jet aircraft and the MRJ90 will plug the gap between its Bombardier Dash 8s and Boeing 737s, he adds.

ANA also evaluated the Embraer 190 and Bombardier’s product offering, says the spokesman, adding that the evaluation process started on 16 January this year. Sometime in February Bombardier withdrew from the competition.

The airline chose the MRJ because it promises superior performance and is more economical to operate, says the spokesman.

“We weren’t strong-armed into buying the MRJ,” says the spokesman, adding there was no pressure from the Japanese Government to buy the Japanese product and “the approach was made by Mitsubishi”.

MHI has stated on numerous occasions that it hopes to launch the MRJ programme at the end of this fiscal year – 31 March – with a firm order from a Japanese airline.