Tokyo: The board of the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd has announced that it aims to capture one-fifth of the regional passenger jet market over the next 20 to 30 years, with its regional jet. It hopes to sell at least 1,000 aircraft in a market currently dominated by Canada''s Bombardier Inc and Brazil''s Embraer SA.
Mitsubishi, Japan''s largest heavy machinery maker, also announced it has picked US firm Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies Corp, to supply engines for the new plane, which it has dubbed as the Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ). The MRJ will be available in a 70 and a 90-seat version.
The sole-source agreement with Pratt & Whitney, will see the US firm supplying its new generation engine, Geared Turbofan, to power the jets. The engine has been designed keeping in mind lower environmental emissions and engine operating costs, Pratt & Whitney said.
Making the announcement the company said that it plans to conduct "robust" marketing activities, negotiate details with potential partners, establish a sales finance scheme and also develop an operational structure. It said that it continues to deliberate the possibility of establishing a new division to oversee development, manufacture and marketing of the regional jet.
The MRJ design emerged from studies that Mitsubishi conducted in cooperation with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). The 90-seat version, scheduled for certification by 2012, would measure 35.8 meters long and feature the same 30.9-meter wingspan planned for the 70-seater. Interestingly, Mitsubishi plans to build the fuselage out of composites that it helped develop for the Boeing 787 and also use fly-by-wire flight controls.
The range for the MRJ 70 LR is placed at 2,110 nautical miles and 1,790 nautical miles for the MRJ 90 LR. Cruise speed for both airplanes is set at Mach 0.78, takeoff field lengths at 5,640 feet and 5,810 feet and maximum takeoff weights at 89,500 and 94,100 pounds, respectively.
Ultimately, Mitsubishi expects to spend about $1.28-billion on the project. However, it will make a final decision on the launch only in the coming spring.
It expects to start operating the jet, which will also be the first Japanese-made passenger jet, in 2012.
"We believe by realizing the MRJ project we can help boost the civil airplane industry to become one of the country''s key industries," Mitsubishi Heavy president Kazuo Tsukuda told a news conference.
"The chance has come to the country''s airplane industry, which has been staying merely as partners for the United States and Europe for so long."
Last year, Bombardier and Embraer, between themselves held 100 per cent of the global market for regional planes, according to Japan Aircraft Development Corp.
According to Mitsubishi the new jet will also be the first regional jet to adopt composite materials for its airframe on a significant scale.