Boeing to Help Japan Build First Passenger Jet

The Mitsubishi Regional Jet test flight is set for 2011.

Boeing Co. will offer its know-how for Japan's project to build its first passenger jet, the fuel-efficient Mitsubishi Regional Jet, the plane's maker said Sept. 4. Boeing will offer consulting in development, sales and customer support for the jet, which is expected to take to the skies in 2013, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. said.

The deal "will contribute significantly to the success of the MRJ," said Nobuo Toda, president of Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp., a Mitsubishi group firm. "The partnership with Boeing will be beneficial to us in that the name Boeing will offer a sense of reassurance to our customers, in addition to its technical knowledge," he said.

The cooperation on the new project further solidifies Boeing's role in Japan, the world's second largest economy and a key market for the Chicago-based firm.

Boeing has long-standing connections with Mitsubishi Heavy and other Japanese industrial companies. Japan's airlines buy nearly exclusively from Boeing, shunning its European rival Airbus Industrie.

Mitsubishi Heavy decided in March to go ahead with commercial development of the regional airliner after landing its first order from All Nippon Airways for up to 25 aircraft. The company says the 70-90 seat plane can save about 20% of fuel consumption through a new "geared turbofan" engine designed by Pratt & Whitney as well as a lighter body using innovative material.

Toda said the company expected growing interest in the Mitsubishi Regional Jet, or MRJ, due to high oil costs and growing environmental awareness. The maiden test flight is set for 2011. "Amid high oil prices, airlines are focusing more and more on operating efficiency, while public attention to environmental design is increasing," he said.

But the company acknowledged that the project will enter a difficult market. The new jet will compete with planes from Canada's Bombardier and Brazil's Embraer, as well as aircraft designed in Russia and China.

Mitsubishi said it expected more than 5,000 new orders across the world for 70-90 seater jets over the next two decades.

The MRJ would be the first commercial passenger aircraft in four decades -- and the first jet airplane -- to be developed in Japan.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008

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