According to a FlightGlobal report from earlier today, Japanese manufacturer Mitsubishi Aircraft is overhauling its MRJ (Mitsubishi Regional Jet) programme and rebranding it as “SpaceJet”. As a result it will cancel MRJ70 development and instead begin work on a new 76-seat variant: The SpaceJet M100.
The FlightGlobal article also quoted Mitsubishi Aircraft president Hisakazu Mizutani as saying the following:
“As we prepare for entry-into-service for the SpaceJet M90, we are also announcing the SpaceJet M100 – the result of our research and development during the past few years and the answer to the regional market’s current and future needs,”
It was last month that Mitsubishi Aircraft’s chief development officer, Alex Bellamy, spoke at their new U.S. headquarters in Renton, Washington. The new variant, Bellamy said, will carry 76 seats in a three-class configuration. A report from AIN Online says that the SpaceJet M100 will retain the MRJ70’s ability to meet the 86,000-pound maximum takeoff weight limitations. These limitations are written into pilot union labor contracts for the three U.S. major airlines.
Timelines and changes
Bellamy, also mentioned that the airplane would retain commonality with the former MRJ90. The MRJ90 is now rebranded as the SpaceJet M90. Certification and entry into service of the M90 is set to be the middle of 2020. The official launch of the SpaceJet M100 by year-end. Through the AINOnline article, Bellamy says the following:
“[Seating configuration is] possibly one change, but we have a refresh and a restatement over all of the product to bring it up to the latest technology…What we’ve been working on is I think fundamentally improved over what the MRJ70 was…”
M90 prototypes have so far flown more than 2,600 hours. The majority of these test flights are from the Mitsubishi Aircraft flight test center in Moses Lake, Washington, where the four M90 prototypes will conduct roughly 80 percent of all the flight testing for that program.
Next on the list of flight-test-plans are tests for the environmental control system, hot and cold climate, high-intensity radiated field (HIRF), and lightning testing.
The perfect sized aircraft for the U.S. market
Bellamy goes on to say that Mitsubishi sees the U.S. as the biggest market for the SpaceJet. This is in large part due to the scope clauses in the contracts of the three major U.S. airlines, “which restrict outsourcing of flying on aircraft exceeding 76 seats and a maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of more than 86,000lb” reports MRO Network.
Therefore, fitting within those contract limits while maximizing efficiency and capacity will be a great selling point. Especially to one of the world’s largest aviation markets:
“We see that one of our competitors is signaling that they wish to exit the market space entirely and the other one is going to be focused on other market sectors too,” said Bellamy. “So they’re not just going to be in the regional regional sector as it’s traditionally defined. Some 90 percent of airports today have a regional jet in them. Sixty-three percent of airports in the U.S. only have a regional jet in them. Nearly 50 percent of aircraft flying today in the United States are regional jets. So this is not a shrinking market. This is a very sizeable market.” -Alex Bellamy, Chief Development Officer, Mitsubishi Aircraft
Outside the U.S., the larger SpaceJet M90 will take-off with launch customer All Nippon Airways (ANA).
At the Paris Air Show
RusTourismNews as well as many other media outlets are reporting that the manufacturer will debut the SpaceJet M100 cabin interior at the Paris Air Show, which is taking place in just a few days, from June 17th to the 20th. The cabin mockup will be on display at Pavilion B6 and can be seen on a first-come-first-served basis on Tuesday June 18th, 19th, and 20th. However, the formal launch of the SpaceJet M100 program is will possibly be later this year.
We’ve recently written about Mitsubishi in talks to acquire Bombardier’s regional jet unit – you can read more about it here.