Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation has rebranded its regional jets as SpaceJets as it attempts to break into the US market with the first Japanese-built airliner in almost half a century.
The company announced its delayed MRJ90 would become the SpaceJet M90 while the former MRJ70 has undergone a makeover to become the SpaceJet M100.
It intends to debut the SpaceJet M100 cabin interior at next week’s Paris Air Show and to formally launch the program later this year.
Mitsubishi, which is also in talks with Bombardier to acquire the Canadian company’s CRJ regional jet unit, says it sees good potential in what it describes as an underserved regional jet market.
The former MRJ90 is on track for type certification and the company expects to deliver to launch customer All Nippon Airways in mid-2020.
The plane uses a Geared Turbofan engine and advanced aerodynamics to deliver what Mitsubishi claims will be industry-leading efficiency.
It will have the widest and tallest cabin in its class, offering what the company says is the roomiest economy seats and most overhead bin capacity.
Mitsubishi sees the US as a major market for the jet but, like other manufacturers, is limited by scope clauses in pilot labor agreements that place seat and maximum take-off weight limitations on regional jets that can be operated by the affiliates of major airlines.
In May this year, it announced it was opening a new US headquarters in Renton, Washington, and it has been conducting flight tests at Moses Lake, also in Washington.
The SpaceJet M100 will me more than 3ft longer than the abandoned MRJ70 but shorter than the SpaceJet M90.
The company says it has tweaked the M100 so it is “perfectly matched to the United States and global markets” and is optimized to be compliant with pilot scope clauses in a 65- to 75-seat, three-class cabin configuration.
It can also host an 88-seat configuration in other global markets.
“The Mitsubishi SpaceJet family represents our plan to redefine the business of regional air travel,” Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation president Hisakazu Mizuta said in the rebranding announcement.
“This is a commercial segment where we see great opportunity. As we prepare for entry-into-service for the SpaceJet M90, we are also announcing the SpaceJet M100 – the result of our research and development during the past few years and the answer to the regional market’s current and future needs.
“These products mark our dedication to a segment in desperate need of change that will allow airlines to enhance the satisfaction of their passengers and significantly improve their business performance.”
Mitsubishi chief development officer Alex Bellamy said millions of people around the world relied on regional air travel.
“There is no reason that their experience as passengers should not be as good as or better than on a mainline flight,” he said. “The SpaceJet family provides the missing link in a curb-to-curb experience for the next generation of travelers while bringing a higher level of value to a neglected and undervalued market segment.”