Mitsubishi Aircraft could help Boeing to manufacture the smaller models of its successor to the 737 series of narrowbodies, using the experience it gains from producing the Mitsubishi Regional Jet to work on larger aircraft.
A stretched version of the 70- to 90-seat MRJ would require a redesign of the aircraft and is therefore unlikely, says Nobuo Toda, president of Mitsubishi Aircraft. However, the company could be involved in the 100- to 130-seat aircraft market by helping Boeing, which may decide on the 737's successor late next decade, he adds.
"If Boeing would like to develop a successor to the 737, we would like to partner them at the lower end of the aircraft, perhaps in the 100- to 130-seat segment," says Toda. "The timing would be good as we would have gained experience in manufacturing the MRJ and we can bring that to the 737 successor programme."
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which has a 67.5% stake in Mitsubishi Aircraft, is a major contractor for Boeing's commercial aircraft division. It manufactures the flaps for the 737, and is a contributor to the 777 and 787.
This close partnership means that Mitsubishi is unlikely to move into the bigger passenger jet market on its own, says Toda. "Boeing and MHI have a special relationship. We respect Boeing's position in the big aircraft business. We are focusing on the regional jets business, and that is something we can be successful in."
The MRJ, which is due to enter service with launch customer All Nippon Airways in 2013, will be powered by Pratt & Whitney's PW1000G geared turbofan.
Mitsubishi Aircraft is keen to tap Boeing's expertise in the technical, sales and customer support aspects of the commercial aviation market for the MRJ, and hopes to reach an agreement with the US manufacturer shortly.
"We are very much the newcomers in this market and we can use Boeing's support framework to help improve the programme's credibility," says Toda. "We are trying to set up a programme for Boeing to help in technical, sales and customer support. We are still talking to them."
Nicole Piasecki, head of Boeing's Japanese operations, revealed in late July that the company would participate in the MRJ in a "minimal way" but "will not be selling the aircraft".
Source: Flight International