Mitsubishi Aircraft is likely to start work on the 100-seat variant of its MRJ business jet only after the smaller types have had their first flight.

The MRJ 90 is scheduled to have its first flight in mid-2012, while the MRJ 70 will take to the skies around a year later. All Nippon Airways, the MRJ's launch customer, has ordered 15 MRJ 90s while US regional carrier Trans States Airlines has bought 50 that will include a combination of both variants.

"We keep studying the MRJ 100X, a stretched version of the MRJ 90. Our engineers are busy developing the MRJ 70 and MRJ 90 now, as that is what the market wants," says Hitoshi Iwasa, vice-president for sales and marketing.

"Airlines in Europe, Latin America and Asia have been talking to us about the MRJ 100X, we are listening to their opinion all the time. It depends on the customers' needs, but there's more demand for the other variants and those will go ahead first."

Trans States signed a definitive agreement, which includes 50 options, in December, and that is helping to drum up interest in an aircraft that Mitsubishi believes will revolutionise the regional jet market.

"The MRJ is still a paper plane, and the Trans States order creates more interest - its competitors want to know how to respond and they talk to us. After the first flight next year, there will be even more interest," says Iwasa.

Source: Flight Daily News