Japan’s first homegrown airliner finally unveiled

Kyodo

Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp. on Saturday finally unveiled Japan’s first homegrown passenger jet following three delays.

The subsidiary of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. rolled out the new twin-engine Mitsubishi Regional Jet at a plant in the town of Toyoyama, Aichi Prefecture, where the midsize aircraft was built with help from the state and other companies.

With its maiden flight due next spring, the Nagoya-based firm plans to start testing this year and delivery in 2017. It has been delayed three times.

More than 400 orders for the MRJ have been received from domestic and foreign airlines.

Buyers of the first Japanese-built airliner in half a century include Japan Airlines Co., All Nippon Airways Co. and Eastern Air Lines Group Inc. of the United States, which agreed to buy up to 40 of the jets, which are used for short-haul flights and seat 70 to 90 passengers.

JAL signed in August a letter of intent to buy 32 MRJs, worth about ¥150 billion in list prices, saying it wants to strengthen the airline’s domestic services by using the fuel-efficient jet from 2021. JAL, which has been undergoing revitalization following bankruptcy in 2010, is expected to seek to resume flights on some domestic routes it has halted.

Smaller jets are seen as a flexible alternative for airlines to meet seasonal demand or service routes on which larger aircraft would be less economical.

The market for regional jets has long been dominated by Embraer SA of Brazil and Canada’s Bombardier Inc., while Mitsubishi Aircraft also has to compete with new entrants from Russia and China.

In August, JAL also announced it will buy up to 27 Embraer jets, whose deliveries will start next year. The Brazilian aircraft maker has separately received orders from airlines for nearly 600 of its next-generation regional jet, the E2, which will enter service in 2018.

The MRJ was shown off at the ceremony 52 years after a prototype of the last Japanese-built commercial airliner, the YS-11 twin-engine turboprop plane, made its maiden flight.

Industry minister Yuko Obuchi, who is embroiled in a political funds scandal, was supposed to attend Saturday’s ceremony, but in the morning she canceled a scheduled trip to Aichi for the ceremony.