Several Japanese news outlets are reporting that Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) is mulling whether to further scale back Mitsubishi Aircraft’s SpaceJet development programme.
Mitsubishi Aircraft has not confirmed or commented about the reports.
Kyodo News reports on 22 October that MHI “is considering sharply scaling back the staff and budget for developing the first domestically manufactured regional jet, effectively freezing the operation due to a slump in demand caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic”.
The same day, Reuters separately reported that MHI “plans to freeze development of its SpaceJet regional jet”.
The reports cited unnamed sources familiar with the matter and said MHI intends to disclose details when providing a medium-term business plan on 30 October.
The Pratt & Whitney PW1200G-powered SpaceJet’s development faced repeated delays even before the aerospace industry entered free fall amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
In Late May, as the pandemic took hold, Mitsubishi Aircraft announced a major pull back, saying it was halting flight testing of the 88-seat SpaceJet 90 and suspending development of a later-planned model, the 76-seat M100. The company also said it was closing all non-Japan locations, consolidating operations at its Nagoya, Japan headquarters.
Earlier in May, news broke that MHI was halving the SpaceJet programme’s budget to Y60 billion ($557 million) for the fiscal year ending on 31 March 2021.
Despite the cuts, in June Mitsubishi Aircraft stressed that it remained committed to the M90. That month MHI also purchased Bombardier’s CRJ programme, a move analysts noted would provide the SpaceJet programme with a critically needed global service operation.
Mitsubishi Aircraft has been well into M90 flight testing.
But that aircraft’s 42,800kg (94,300lb) maximum take-off weight (MTOW) effectively shuts it out of the USA – the largest regional jet market in the world. Most US regional carriers cannot operate aircraft with MTOW more than 39,000kg – a restriction stipulated in contracts between major airlines and pilot unions.
That is why, in 2019, Mitsubishi Aircraft launched the 76-seat M100, designed to have a 39,000lb MTOW, making it an option for US regionals.