• Kyodo

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Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp. plans to step up its sales pitch for the Mitsubishi Regional Jet, Japan’s first domestically produced passenger jet, particularly in Latin America, according to the chairman of its U.S. unit.

“We want to grab customers” from Embraer, a Brazilian aerospace conglomerate that is strong in the region, Masao Yamagami said during an annual convention of the Regional Airline Association in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation America Inc., he said, will market the MRJ more to win orders for the first time in the region as “there must be demand” for a small jet like the MRJ.

Yamagami said the key factor is increasing air travel by the middle classes nations such as Mexico and Colombia as economies grow.

A total of 407 MRJ aircraft are already on order and 20 more will be added to Mitsubishi Aircraft’s order book when the company based in Aichi Prefecture signs a definitive agreement with Aerolease Aviation, an aircraft leasing company based in Florida.

The total of 427 MRJ aircraft comprises 233 firm orders with 170 options and 24 purchase rights.

The MRJ’s first successful test flight last November “turned the tide,” with the company receiving more inquiries that appear to lead to full business talks.

Yamagami was also hopeful that there will be deals to be struck with European customers in the near future.

“Many airlines have expressed interest” in the MRJ, he said, although Mitsubishi Aircraft has not yet received any orders from European customers.

Development of the aircraft has been mired in a string of delays stemming from changes in the design, manufacturing process and parts.

The MRJ made its first successful flight last November, but the first delivery to ANA Holdings Inc. has since been pushed back by around a year until mid-2018.

The 35-meter, twin-engine aircraft will have 70 to 90 seats with a slim body design that reduces air resistance, helping it consume around 20 percent less fuel than other aircraft of similar size, according to its maker.

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