Proposed 70- to 90-seater part of Japanese government push to propel local firms into aircraft manufacturing

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) is discussing with Rolls-Royce the power requirement for its proposed regional jet, which it hopes to start producing by 2012 if the project gets the nod from the company's board.

"There are discussions with Rolls-Royce, but nothing's been firmed up. We're just exploring the possibility," says MHI.

The board will decide whether to produce the 70- to 90-seat Mitsubishi Jet by March 2008, it says. The aircraft will burn up to 20% less fuel and be quieter than comparable models, says MHI.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries jet 
© Mitsubishi Heavy Industries

The proposed Mitsubishi Jet could be in production by 2012

Cost estimates are not available as MHI says it is still firming up specifications such as range and payload. The manufacturer is in discussions with Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry about the project, and it plans to get investments from banks and trading firms to lower its financial exposure.

MHI began leading a government-funded study of regional jets in 2003, and unveiled a four-abreast 30-seater with a 2m (6.6ft)-high and 2.8m-wide cabin in 2004 (Flight International, 12-18 October 2004). However, it ditched plans for a small jet in 2005, citing the poor market for such an aircraft.

The company had also stayed away from larger regional jets to avoid competing with Bombardier and Embraer, the market leaders in the segment. It was also wary of damaging its supplier relationship with Bombardier, which includes workshare on the CRJ700 and Dash 8 Q400 programmes.

Bombardier, however, said in early August that it is transferring the Q series flight-control work from MHI to Mexico to reduce costs. While the existing CRJ700/900, Challenger 300 and Global Express assembly work is ongoing at MHI, industry sources say that additional work transfers to Mexico are being considered.

The Mitsubishi Jet project is part of the Japanese government push to get local companies to manufacture commercial aircraft after a 40-year hiatus, following the termination of the NAMC YS-11 turboprop programme.

Source: Flight International