Fuji Heavy Industries plans to put off the development of a new business jet for several years because of funding constraints, although studies into the aircraft will continue for the near future.
The Subaru Jet, named after the brand of cars that FHI manufactures, has been in the works for several years. If it goes ahead, it would be the company's first indigenous product since the Fuji FA-200 Aero Subaru single-piston aircraft production line ended in 1986.
Apart from supplying components for Boeing passenger aircraft, FHI's commercial aerospace division also manufactures the main wing portion of the Eclipse 500 very light jet and is working with Hawker Beechcraft on the H4000 midsized business jet. While the company has not decided on the Subaru Jet's specifications, it is studying aircraft between those two segments.
© Tim Bicheno-Brown/Flight International
FHI has decided that its aerospace arm will solely fund the programme to prevent it from draining resources from the highly successful car business, which contributed just over 90% of the company's sales in the year to 31 March. Sales from the aerospace business, which also manufactures the T-7 primary trainer and Boeing AH-64D attack helicopter for Japan's air force, amounted to ¥100 billion ($9.16 million), or about 6.3% of total sales.
"Under our mid-term business plan, we aim to increase sales from the aerospace business to ¥200 billion and start to develop the Subaru Jet within 10 years," says FHI. "However, the aerospace company will not use resources from other FHI businesses to ensure that the programme is viable from the start. Therefore, it makes sense to proceed with the programme only after the aerospace business becomes more profitable."
Another factor is the uncertainty over the direction of the business jet market. "It is unclear which kind of business jet will be in demand - VLJs like the Eclipse or a midsized aircraft like the H4000. And with the global economy slowing down and high oil prices affecting everyone, the sector could be adversely affected. We will take our time to fully understand the market fully before making a decision."
FHI will be the third Japanese major to have a new indigenous commercial aviation programme if it goes ahead. Mitsubishi Aircraft, a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, is developing the Mitsubishi Regional Jet while Kawasaki is working on a commercial variant of the C-X airlifter that it is developing for the country's armed forces.