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MHI moves to larger jet

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) has switched the focus of its regional jet study from small to large regional jets despite potential overlap with partner Bombardier.

Japanese industry sources say MHI has determined there is not enough market demand to warrant developing a 30-seat regional jet and an aircraft in the 70-90 seat category would be better received.

MHI began leading a government-funded study of regional jets in 2003 and last year unveiled a four-abreast 30-seater with a 2m (6.6ft) high and 2.8m wide cabin (Flight International, 12-18 October 2004).

MHI initially stayed away from larger regional jets to avoid competing with Bombardier and Embraer. MHI also at first decided against studying larger regional jets because it did not want to damage its supplier relationship with Bombardier, which includes workshare on the CRJ700 and Dash 8 Q400 programmes. Japan's indigenous regional jet study runs through fiscal 2007 and MHI will have to decide within the next two years whether to launch development of the proposed aircraft, which could fly as early as fiscal 2008.

Industry sources say the Japanese government is pushing local manufacturers to return to the business of building commercial aircraft after a 40-year hiatus, which began with the termination of the NAMC YS-11 turboprop programme.

But sources say it is highly unlikely MHI will decide to develop the aircraft given the company's current financial condition, its conservative management and the high risk associated with the proposed project.

BRENDAN SOBIE/TOKYO

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