Mitsubishi Aircraft is opening a SpaceJet development office in the Montreal region, a move the airframer says reflects continued global expansion and an effort to capitalise on Montreal's aerospace strength.
The company's 19 September announcement of its Montreal expansion comes as M90 certification continues and as Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) finalises a planned acquisition of Bombardier's CRJ programme, which is based in Montreal.
"It’s the last step, really, in our turnaround story of building a global company and recovering the programme," Mitsubishi Aircraft's chief development officer Alex Bellamy says of the new Montreal office. "Being able to tap into the talent available in Montreal is invaluable."
Mitsubishi Aircraft intends to open the "SpaceJet Montreal Centre" imminently. It plans to quickly hire a workforce that will assist with certification and entry-into-service of 88-seat M90. That work is being led out of Washington state.
Mitsubishi Aircraft is establishing the new site, which will likely be in the Boisbriand suburb of Montreal, with government economic incentives tied to hiring, Bellamy tells FlightGlobal. Initial plans call for about 100 employees.
Over time, Mitsubishi Aircraft intends to expand its Montreal headcount and transition staff to work on other development programmes, including that of the M100 and another potential derivative dubbed the "M200", says SpaceJet Montreal's vice-president Jean-David Scott.
Mitsubishi Aircraft expects to deliver the 78-seat M100 in 2024. The envisioned M200, which would have up to 100 seats, remains in the company's product pipeline.
Mitsubishi Aircraft re-branded the MRJ as "SpaceJet" at this year's Paris air show. The MRJ90 became the SpaceJet M90
SUPPORTING M90 CERTIFICATION
Mitsubishi Aircraft is now working toward certification of the M90, and it expects to begin deliveries next year.
M90 fight testing and certification is being conducted in partnership with flight test company AeroTec from a site in Moses Lake, Washington. Mitsubishi Aircraft has no plans to move flight testing to the Montreal region, Bellamy says.
The executives position the Montreal office as part of Mitsubishi Aircraft's turnaround plan, launched three years ago while the programme was struggling.
Since then, the company has hired some 300 aerospace workers and opened the Moses Lake site to invigorate M90 certification. Earlier this year, Mitsubishi Aircraft re-branded the programme from MRJ to SpaceJet. It also halted development of the 70-seat MRJ70, interest in which was soft owing to US pilot contract restrictions, and launched the M100.
"We really believe in a three-site philosophy [and] tapping into diverse talent," Bellamy says. Mitsubishi needs "multiple global presences", he adds, noting most SpaceJet customers will be outside Japan.
Montreal will give Mitsubishi Aircraft a presence in another prime aerospace hub – one with a rich aerospace legacy and an experienced aerospace workforce, he says.
"Talent is difficult to find… Having talent work where talent wants to live gives us an opportunity to [recruit] the best."
The company has already capitalised on Montreal's skilled workforce, having hired former Montreal-based Bombardier employees to work in Washington state on the M90's certification. Last year, Bombardier sued Mitsubishi Aircraft and some of those workers on allegations of intellectual property theft. Bombardier later dropped the suit.
Mitsubishi Aircraft's parent MHI plans to buy Bombardier's CRJ programme for $550 million in the first half of 2020. Thought CRJ production will cease, the purchase will give MHI a global support network and cement Mitsubishi's Montreal presence.
Mitsubishi Aircraft executives decline to discuss the CRJ purchase or MHI's plans in Montreal, but note the growing importance of that region to the Mitsubishi companies.