Mitsubishi to “temporarily pause” SpaceJet development

After reports earlier this week in Japanese media, the firm revealed today that it would temporarily stop the development of its regional jet programme

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) is set to pause the development of its regional aircraft programme, SpaceJet, as it continues to deal with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic across the rest of its multi-sector business.

In June 2019, Mitsubishi renamed the MRJ as the SpaceJet. Aviation Image Network/BaoLuo

In its medium-term business plan, the company said that given the current development status and market conditions, it had “no choice but to temporarily pause the majority of SpaceJet activities”, but would continue with its type certification efforts and “assess a possible [programme] restart.”

Known previously as the Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ), the 70-90-seat aircraft is the first airliner to be domestically designed and produced in Japan since the 1960s. The narrowbody – which first flew in November 2015 – was supposed to enter service in 2013 but repeated delays have pushed deliveries back to 2022.

The SpaceJet's main competitors are the Airbus A220 and Embraer E2 series. MHI

The firm says pausing the programme, will help it lower its costs by 120 billion yen (£890m).

After receiving a 50% budget cut in May this year, the programme is expected to now see a further reduction for the full-year 2021, with MHI assigning only 20 billion yen (£148m). This latest financial plan is a 94% decrease from 2018’s allocation, which stood at 370 billion yen (£2.74bn).

All Nippon Airways was the first airline to place and order for the type, when it signed for 15 jets with options for ten more in March 2008. Wikimedia Commons/Anna Zvereva

MHI increased its presence in the commercial aviation market when it purchased the CRJ programme from Bombardier in June this year. For approximately $550m (£425m), the Japanese conglomerate acquired the maintenance, support, refurbishment, marketing and sale activities for the CRJ Series aircraft, along with type certificates.

The firm’s business plan states it wants to “secure synergies” across its commercial aviation division including the sharing of human resources and “know-how”.

MHI expects a market recovery to occur from 2024 and will increase its production efficiency and drive forward new technology development to meet the future needs of its aircraft programmes.