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Could Mitsubishi Launch Another Airliner Design?

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Mitsubishi canceled its SpaceJet airliner project early in 2023, but could the company actually launch another airliner? And if so, how soon?

In February last year, Mitsubishi announced the cancelation of the SpaceJet, a very modern regional jet, previously called the Mitsubishi Regional Jet, or MRJ. It was a promising competitor to Embraer’s E2 jet family.

Could Mitsubishi Launch Another Airliner Design?
Image: Mitsubishi

Among other things, the Mitsubishi SpaceJet was the first airliner to select a version of the Pratt & Whitney Geared Turbofan (GTF), effectively launching this engine family in 2007. However, this also highlights the delays that the program suffered before its cancellation.

By the time the cancelation became official, Mitsubishi had spent about $8.5 billion, with multiple aircraft undergoing flight testing. In reality, SpaceJet had effectively been canceled in 2020, with people and resources moving to other projects and all development and certification work outside Japan stopping for good.

The Mitsubishi SpaceJet (then called the MRJ). Photo: CHIYODA I, CC BY-SA 4.0

At the time of the 2020 project “freeze,” a necessary redesign to better align the project with the U.S. Scope clauses would have necessitated another $3.5 billion to bring it to market. Scott Hamilton analyzed the project’s many woes in Leeham News, HERE.

However, the Japanese government is pursuing the creation of a home-built passenger aircraft. Earlier this year, we saw that Japan announced the launch of a public-private project for such an aircraft, which should enter service in 2035 – or later.

Could Mitsubishi Launch Another Airliner Design?
Photo: pjs2005, CC BY-SA 2.0

Mitsubishi and a Future Japanese Airliner

This aircraft should use advanced engine technologies, possibly including hydrogen propulsion. The total cost of this future airliner project is $24.9 billion – and it’s hard to imagine Mitsubishi NOT being part of it.

But late last month, Hiroyuki Koguchi, Mitsubishi’s senior vice president for commercial aviation, appeared to question the timing of the launch of such a project. He did say that the experience of the Mitsubishi SpaceJet project would help in the development of a future airliner.

Photo: CHIYODA I, CC BY-SA 4.0

But the timing of such a project remains a mystery. Koguchi told shareholders that Mitsubishi still had more to discuss with Japan’s government before taking on another airliner project. However, there are other moves elsewhere.

Boeing’s problems, plus supply chain and production constraints also affecting Airbus, are creating a gap in the market. Airlines and lessors would undoubtedly like to see a bit more competition in the industry.

Could Mitsubishi Launch Another Airliner Design?
Photo: Grasshopper2015, CC BY-SA 4.0

At the same time, Embraer has been contacting multiple potential partners in a future airliner project, including Japan and, presumably, Mitsubishi. Embraer has a lot of engineers with little work to do, but it needs a financial partner if it’s going to develop something to compete with Airbus and Boeing.

In any case, a move by Mitsubishi to launch an airliner, either alone or with Embraer’s help, would be a significant about-face. The project’s cancelation in 2020, after so much direct spending (and even more indirectly), was embarrassing enough, although the pandemic offered a great excuse. But could the post-pandemic era help Mitsubishi reverse course? Or force it to do so?

Sources: Reuters, Leeham News

The post Could Mitsubishi Launch Another Airliner Design? appeared first on Mentour Pilot.

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