Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp. is looking to display its new regional aircraft at the Paris Air Show in June as it seeks more overseas orders for Japan’s first passenger jet after delaying the plane’s debut five times.
The company is working out details on how it can pull one of four aircraft currently undergoing flight testing in the US for the show, without causing further delays to deliveries, said Hisakazu Mizutani, who became president of Mitsubishi Aircraft this month. The planemaker expects to come to a decision soon on whether to show the aircraft at the event, he said.
“There’d be merit in taking it to the show,” Mizutani said in an interview in Tokyo on Wednesday. “We just need to make sure it doesn’t affect the testing process in doing so.”
The Paris show, happening once every two years, alternates with the Farnborough Air Show in the UK as the aviation industry’s biggest event where new models go on display and plane orders are announced. The aircraft known as the Mitsubishi Regional Jet is set for completion in 2019 with its first delivery a year later. It will compete in the market for passenger jets with fewer than 100 seats, a segment currently dominated by Bombardier Inc. and Embraer SA.
Mitsubishi Aircraft has won most of its orders for the jet from overseas, with airlines in the US being the biggest buyers. The Nagoya-based company has 427 orders, including options and purchase rights, and that will increase to 447 when US aircraft lessor Rockton AB signs a definitive agreement, according to Mitsubishi Aircraft.
St. George, Utah-based SkyWest Inc. is the biggest customer with an order for 200 planes including options. Trans States Airlines, Inc., based in Bridgeton, Missouri, is the second-largest buyer with 100 on order, including options.
Mizutani said Mitsubishi Aircraft is in discussions with numerous potential customers but isn’t sure whether the talks would lead to more orders this year.
The company is increasing the number of employees at its Seattle engineering center to more than 200 from about 150 to help with testing of the plane. It has hired people with experience at global regional jet-makers, Mizutani said.
Mizutani said he hopes the MRJ will be able to carry the flame for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, mirroring how the YS-11 – the last made-in-Japan plane – carried the flame for the Games in the capital in 1964.
“We’ve recently added lots of global experts” with “a lot of experience” developing commercial planes, Mizutani said. “We are definitely going to complete this aircraft.”