Friday, December 1, 2017

Mitsubishi reportedly at risk of losing MRJ order; rejected Boeing proposal may have helped new jet

Mitsubishi Aircraft is at risk of losing a deal for 40 of the roughly 450 Mitsubishi Regional Jets lined up for sale so far due to the shifting landscape among U.S. regional airlines, a Japanese news agency reports.

The company took orders for 40 MRJs (including options) in 2014 from Eastern Airlines.

Eastern was one of the top U.S. carriers in the U.S. before ceasing operations in 1991. The airline returned in 2009 but was acquired in June this year by Swift Air, which announced plans to increase its fleet of Boeing 737 aircraft from 13 to about 18 but was silent on the MRJ order.

The MRJ order is now likely to be cancelled, the NIkei Asian Review reported late Thursday.

"No comment," Phoenix-based Swift Air LLC CEO Jeff Conry emailed Friday.

MRJ spokesman Jeff Dronen did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

Mitsubishi Aircraft USA is conducting extensive flight tests of the MRJ in Moses Lake, in Eastern Washington state. The MRJ is the first-ever Japanese passenger jet.

The MRJ failed to win a single order at this summer's Paris Air Show. A series of delays has pushed back the MRJ's delivery date no fewer than five times in recent years. It won't fly passengers before 2020.

Nikkei reported that the MRJ's development might have gone far more smoothly if Mitsubishi Aircraft had made a key decision differently seven years ago, Nikei reported, citing an unidentified former Mitsubishi employee on the development team who said a Boeing executive proposed using the Boeing 737 cockpit for the MRJ.

The 737 cockpit is used in more than 9,000 aircraft around the world as of 2017 and would significantly reduced MRJ costs for training pilots and mechanics, which may have made customers more likely to buy the new jet.

Mitsubishi executives rejected the proposal, the former employee said: "They insisted on developing everything themselves."

Boeing Commercial Airplanes spokesman Paul Bergman declined to comment.

(Andrew McIntosh - Puget Sound Business Journal)

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