Mitsubishi SpaceJet: (Breaking into the Business and the History of the MU-2)
At the 50th Paris Air Show in June, Mitsubishi presented its SpaceJet M100, the latest version of the formerly named MRJ group. The regional jet will seat 65-76 people in a 3-cabin configuration and has been judged U.S. clause compliant.
The SpaceJet M100 is expected to be available in 2023.
Another SpaceJet version, the M90, previously named the MRJ90, will begin deliveries in 2020. This interior of the jet is designed for approximately ninety seats.
Delays, Delays, and More Delays
In 2003, the Japanese government presented a program to address a global need for efficient regional passenger jets. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries was named the leading manufacturer of the project.
In 2007, the first MRJ was unveiled at the Paris Air Show and, subsequently, at the Farnborough Air Show. ANA (All Nippon Airways) placed firm orders for 25 of the new jets, expecting to receive the first deliveries in 2013.
However, delay after delay slowed the development and production, and the maiden flight of the MRJ90 did not happen until late 2015. The manufacturers retargeted the launch to the middle of 2018. But, once again, production was delayed.
In June 2019, Mitsubishi retitled the MRJ program SpaceJet and has now reset the first deliveries of the M90 for mid-2020. The company is completing the final testing now, so there is some optimism that launch-customer ANA will receive their first deliveries next year.
Future of the SpaceJet 100
Using the learnings from the fifteen-year journey to develop the SpaceJet M90, Mitsubishi is expecting to shorten the learning curve for their M100 and meet their 2023 deadline for launch.
Modifications in the earlier design had to be addressed to make the M100 clause compliant for operations in the United States, the largest potential customer for the aircraft. By collaborating with Triumph, an aerospace component designer, the fuselage was widened by two feet without impacting the weight or efficiency.
One U.S. company has reportedly signed a memorandum of understanding to purchase 15 SpaceJet M100s for delivery in 2024.
Mitsubishi’s Aviation History
Despite the recent issues and delays related to the introduction of the SpaceJet Series, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is not a newcomer to the aviation industry.
As far back as 1920, the roots of Mitsubishi Aviation were planted, producing several types of military aircraft for the Imperial Japanese military. By the 1930s, the company was producing fighter and attack bombers, including the famous “Zero” fighter. This aircraft, used heavily in World War II, could reach speeds of over 300 mph,
In 1944, the penultimate year of WWII, Mitsubishi produced 24,000 aircraft.
Development of the MU-2
Mitsubishi later introduced a new twin-engine turboprop, the MU-2, in September 1963. Totaling 714 built, the plane was produced until 1986 in both Japan and San Angelo TX.
Although many early fatalities (337) occurred with this aircraft, aviation experts have since determined that real cause of the crashes pertained to the lack of specific training before flying the airplane. Many pilots, unfamiliar with the MU-2’s higher speed and altitude capability, were not accustomed to the conditions, and the results were catastrophic.
With proper pre-training and certification, accidents in the MU-2 ultimately dropped to near zero.