MHI has no plans to enter jumbo jet market

by Hiroko Nakata

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., which plans in 2013 to launch Japan’s first domestically produced jetliner, is not looking to enter the jumbo jet fray, MHI President Hideaki Omiya said Thursday.

Mitsubishi Heavy plans to launch regional jets — medium-size aircraft with 60 to 99 seats — in 2013, expecting strong demand for such jets amid rising fuel costs and the growing need for short-range travel.

Omiya also said MHI hopes to win orders for about 1,000 jets, around one-fifth of the anticipated global demand for regional jets in the next 20 years.

Asked if the heavy machinery maker will build larger jets in the future, Omiya said, “We have no intention to go into an area of aircraft built by Boeing and Airbus.”

The market for jumbo jets is currently dominated by Boeing Co. and Airbus S.A.S. MHI currently supplies components for large jets to the two makers.

Omiya indicated his company hopes its business ties with them continue. “When we complete the Mitsubishi Regional Jet, it is possible for us to join a project to manufacture Boeing’s next jet model,” Omiya said at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan.

MHI, a newcomer in the field of aircraft production, faces tough competition in the regional jet market, which is currently dominated by Canada’s Bombardier Inc. and Brazil’s Empresa Brasileira de Aeronautica SA, better known as Embraer.

Russian and Chinese manufacturers are also planning to debut regional jets a few years ahead of Mitsubishi Heavy.

Out of about 5,000 jets that will be needed in the market in the next 20 years, Omiya said China and Russia are expected to provide around 2,000 in total. “I hope we can get orders of about one-third of the remaining 3,000 jets,” Omiya said.

He said rising oil prices will support the MRJ, which boasts high fuel efficiency. “As long as oil prices don’t fall back to the previous levels, the demand for the MRJ will be strong,” he said.