First new jetliner built by Japan in decades may be delayed

Mitsubishi Aircraft, a unit of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, may delay the delivery of its MRJ regional jets to its first customer ANA due to the possibility of some technical modifications to the aircraft, the Japanese carrier said.

The builder of Japan’s first home-made passenger jet in decades has informed of the possibility of such a risk, said the ANA spokeswoman Maho Ito, which may mean it will not be able to meet the original schedule for mid-2018. Mitsubishi has not given any new date and ANA will decide on a response only to a confirmed delay, she said. Representatives of Mitsubishi did not respond to calls outside business hours at the weekend.

The MRJ programme, aimed at challenging the dominance of Brazil’s Embraer and Canada’s Bombardier in the market for planes with fewer than 100 seats, had recently suffered some setbacks after two test flights to the United StatesS were aborted following faulty air-conditioning. As recently as August, Mitsubishi said it was sticking to its delivery schedule for 2018, and said its third attempt to test-fly the aircraft to the US was a success on Wednesday.

ANA, the operator of Japan’s biggest airline and the launch customer for the MRJ, has ordered a total of 25 aircraft, which can seat as many as 92 people.

The MRJ, which made its first flight in November last year, won its first order from a European company in February. Mitsubishi had 427 orders for its new aircraft, including options and purchase rights, and its two biggest customers are based in the US.

Japan’s last domestically produced commercial aircraft was the YS-11, a turboprop made by Nihon Aircraft Manufacturing, a consortium that included Mitsubishi Heavy, Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Fuji Heavy Industries. Production was stopped in 1974 after 182 of the planes were sold.

Mitsubishi Heavy shares declined 2.7 per cent to ¥419.10 in Tokyo on Friday, extending their losses this year to about 20 per cent, versus a 14 per cent drop in the benchmark Nikkei 225 index.

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