Mitsubishi must build a 100-seat regional jet if it expects to be a serious competitor

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Mitsubishi must build a 100-seat regional jet if it expects to be a serious competitor in the market, says leasing giant Steven Udvar-Hazy.

Speaking yesterday to journalists on the sidelines of the International Society of Transport Aircraft Trading conference in Scottsdale, Arizona, Hazy said Mitsubishi has "come to talk to us about the MRJ100, which would be a two or three row stretch of the [Pratt & Whitney geared turbofan-powered] MRJ90 and Pratt can certainly deliver an engine."

After spending many years at the helm of International Lease Finance Corp (ILFC), Udvar-Hazy now heads up Air Lease Corp, which has been growing its portfolio of aircraft.

The only reason why Mitsubishi designed the 70-seater MRJ70, says Hazy, "is that they felt to penetrate the US market a lot of US majors will not allow their regional partners to fly [over 70 seats]. But if we take ourselves five years from today, it would not surprise me that they'll have the [MRJ]70, the 90 and the 100 or whatever they call it."

Hazy says he would not be surprised if Mitsubishi has three aircraft types, "just like the CRJ700, 900 and 1000 is a three-airplane family. [A 100-seater would help be more competitive] with certain airlines. As a [BAe] 146 replacement as a Fokker 100 replacement even as a [Boeing] 737-500 replacement, certain airlines may go for that."

Underscoring the need for Mitsubishi to offer a 100-seat member of its new regional jet family, Hazy says: "So if the Japanese want to be a real player, I think they'll have to build a 100-seat airplane. I just don't see that they'll have the market penetration with the current models they have now. They've already resized the fuselage based on our inputs. They changed the fuselage diameter by like 7cm or 8cm because they were building it based on the average Japanese sized adult and we had them completely redo the fuselage diameter and now that's the new standard."

The recent devastating earthquake in Japan could impact the timeline for development, however. The situation in Japan "is so awful. That could set things back as far as development money, other than what's in the pipeline," says Hazy.