St. Louis – Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp. is touting its still-in-development Mitsubishi Regional Jet, set to be the first Japanese-built small passenger jet, at a U.S. trade show that opened Tuesday in St. Louis.
Speaking to reporters at the Regional Airline Association’s Annual Convention, Hirofumi Takahashi, president of Mitsubishi Aircraft’s U.S. unit, said, “We are focusing on North America since it’s the biggest market (for small jets). We also sense strong interest in MRJ from the customers we’ve been talking to.”
The United States is a major market for small jets that link regional cities. Mitsubishi Aircraft is planning to build up orders in the roughly one-year run-up to the jet’s first test flight.
Mitsubishi Aircraft says MRJ exceeds existing comparable models in fuel efficiency by at least 20 percent. Powered by engines built by U.S.-based Pratt & Whitney, the aircraft will be available in two standard configurations — the MRJ90 with 88 seats and MRJ70 with 76 seats.
The Nagoya-based company is also considering developing a 100-seat version, dubbed the MRJ100X.
The St. Louis show, which runs through Thursday, also features models by competitors such as Brazil’s Embraer S.A. and Canada’s Bombardier Inc.
A life-size model of MRJ’s cabin interior is on display at the venue. So far, Mitsubishi Aircraft has received orders for 325 jets, including those under option, from clients such as All Nippon Airways Co. and Skywest Inc., a U.S. regional carrier.
Mitsubishi Aircraft has postponed the initial delivery of MRJ from 2013. The first test flight is now expected in the second quarter of 2015 with delivery likely to start in the second quarter of 2017. All Nippon Airways is scheduled to receive the first plane.
At the convention, Takahashi said some test flights will be conducted in the U.S. from the latter half of 2015 to see how the engine and main wing flaps work in cold weather and other conditions.
Three of the five aircraft to be used in test flights in Japan will be flown for additional assessments mainly in the U.S. state of Washington for airworthiness certification outside Japan.
Pratt & Whitney said Tuesday that engines for the planes were expected to be ready for delivery within weeks.