Mitsubishi Aircraft’s forthcoming MRJ70 regional jet hopes to take advantage of an approaching bulge of elderly regional aircraft coming to the end of their leases, according to the company’s chief development officer Alex Bellamy.
“We’re targeting replacement demand in the US,” Bellamy told ATW at the Farnborough Air Show. The MRJ70 is the smaller variant of the MRJ90 that will be first to market in mid-2020. The MRJ70, which will typically seat 76 passengers in a single-class, 31-in. pitch cabin, is scheduled to see its first deliveries in late 2021/early 2022.
Mitsubishi has previously said the MRJ70 would enter service around a year after the MRJ90; the dates announced at the show this week stretch that to around 18 months. Bellamy said there had been “a small adjustment, but it’s really a market-driven one.”
A “significant” number of Bombardier CRJ200s and Embraer ERJ-145s are due to come off lease around that time, Bellamy said. Although the latter types are considerably smaller in passenger capacity than the MRJ70, Mitsubishi believes that the combination of a clean-sheet design that fits within the restrictions of US airlines’ scope clauses will prove attractive to US carriers.
There will be no substantive differences between the two aircraft, he said. Rather, the MRJ70 will benefit from an “optimization” of certain aspects of the larger aircraft’s design.
Mitsubishi will take account of changing passenger tastes and trends between now and late 2021 in outfitting the cabin; Wi-Fi and IFE will be offered as an option on both aircraft, for example.
The MRJ90 is expected to finish its flight test program around the end of 2019, with certification following in the first half of 2020. Sales of the type have been relatively slow to date – 213 firm and 174 other commitments – but Bellamy said he anticipated the flow of orders picking up as the aircraft neared service.
He believed that the presence of the aircraft in the Farnborough flying display, where potential customers could actually see it flying, would mark the start of a turnaround in its fortunes. An aircraft “takes on a different emotional appeal when you can see it and smell it—but not hear it, because it’s so quiet. This is a very important turning point in the program.”
While the MRJ70 is particularly targeted at the US, the 88- to 92-seat MRJ90 is expected to be the lead aircraft in other regions.
A larger, 100-seat variant, is still featured in the company’s brochures and Bellamy said Mitsubishi would “take a strategic look at the MRJ100X once we’re well into this program.” There was no particular timeline for the 100-seater, he added. Mitsubishi would only commit to the largest member of the family when it had the resources to do so.
The MRJ90 made its airshow debut at Farnborough on July 16, before an encounter with a ground-handling vehicle cracked the aircraft’s radome and led to its withdrawal from the July 17 flying display. However, it flew again July 18.
The damage was repaired with a combination of glassfiber, tape and a reinforcement mesh on the interior of the radome, plus tape and paint externally.