• Kyodo

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Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp. has signed a deal with Eastern Air Lines Group Inc. of the United States to supply up to 40 of its MRJ regional jet under development, Teruaki Kawai told reporters at the Farnborough International Airshow underway in a London suburb.

The Miami-based airline, attempting a comeback under a new owner, is placing a firm order for 20 MRJ90, a 90-seat class plane, and an option to buy 20 more under a memorandum of understanding.

A definitive agreement is expected in the near future, with deliveries scheduled to start in 2019, the Japanese aircraft builder said.

“This announcement encourages us to further boost our sales activity around the world,” Kawai said in a statement. “We hope that the MRJ, the next-generation regional jet, will contribute to the growth of Eastern Air Lines.”

Edward J. Wegel, the airline’s president and CEO, was quoted as saying, “We are extremely impressed with the operating cost benefits of the MRJ with the geared turbofan engine, which reduces seat-mile costs almost to the level of current 130-seater aircraft.”

With the latest deal, Mitsubishi Aircraft has attained orders for a total of 365 planes, including those under option purchase agreements. It is fighting competition from Brazil’s Embraer S.A., Canada’s Bombardier Inc. and jet manufacturers in China and Russia.

The MRJ is in the final stage of development with the maiden flight planned for next spring and the delivery of the first unit in 2017, according to the company. The first test flight in the United States is expected in fall 2015.

The MRJ would the first domestically built aircraft in half a century. The first delivery has been pushed off from initially planned 2013 because of delays in the development program.

Eastern Air Lines was one of the major U.S. carriers but collapsed in 1991. The brand was inherited by a new owner and is scheduled to resume operations in 2015.

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