Mitsubishi says delays will not hurt existing orders

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Mitsubishi Aircraft is confident it will retain existing orders from its three customers, despite a recent announcement of a delay to its MRJ regional jet's first flight by more than 15 months.

"We're in very close communication with our customers and we believe we can keep the existing orders," says Yugo Fukuhara, Mitsubishi's head of sales in a phone interview with journalists.

With the revised schedule, launch customer ANA will now take delivery of its first MRJ90 in Q2 2017, a pushback from the original mid-2015 to Q1 2016 schedule. The Japanese airline has said that it will have to modify its fleet and network plans for small jets because of the MRJ regional jet delay.

Mitsubishi would not disclose when its two other clients, Trans States Holdings and SkyWest Airlines, will take their first jets. In 2012, when SkyWest ordered 100 MRJ90s, with an option for an additional 100 of the type, it had said that the availability of the MRJ regional jet in 2017 is one reason it picked the aircraft.

Asked whether more orders for the MRJ regional jet can be expected before the jet's first flight, Fukuhara says: "It is our duty, and we think so."

"Developing a new aircraft from scratch is not easy. It's a big challenge and we have been overcoming any issues raised, and we believe we can overcome any issues in future with the strong support from our customers and the market, to give us confidence in the success of this programme," he adds.

The recent delay will also not affect the Japanese airframer's decision on whether to launch a 100-seat MRJ regional jet variant, but an "appropriate decision" will be made, depending on market requirements, says Fukuhara.

Mitsubishi has an order backlog for 165 MRJ90s, with 160 options.