PARIS: Mitsubishi confident of year-end first flight

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Mitsubishi Aircraft will start final assembly of its MRJ regional jet within "the next two months", and is confident that the aircraft will be on track to take its first flight by year end.

"We're producing components of the aircraft and getting ready for final assembly in a couple of months. After that we can put the jet together within a month," says president Teruaki Kawai in an interview during the Paris air show.

He could not say when Pratt & Whitney will deliver the first PW1200G GTF engines, but reiterates that the engine maker has promised to "support Mitsubishi's schedule".

On Embraer launching its second-generation E-Jet at the show, Kawai believes competition in the 70-100 segment will grow the market demand.

"I think our aircraft has better performance, but Embraer is very experienced. The competition will expand the market and we'll also supply better products," says Kawai.

He adds that some airlines have also requested for a 100-seat regional jet and that there is "a good chance" Mitsubishi will launch the MRJ100. The current focus however, is on making sure the regional jet takes to the skies by this year.

"We're in the development phase so anything might happen. But we're aiming to make this aircraft fly within this year. I think we can reach the goal," says Kawai.

He adds that there will be a worldwide demand for 5,000 aircraft in the 70-100 seat segment over the next 20 years, and that Mitsubishi's target is to capture half of that market.

Mitsubishi has a backlog for 165 firm orders with 160 options. The programme received a major boost last year when US-based SkyWest Airlines made an order for 100 MRJ90s with an option for an additional 100 of the type.