Japan on March 28 launched a project to build its first ever passenger jet, a next-generation regional airliner that aims to meet growing demand for fuel efficient planes. The state-backed Mitsubishi Regional Jet is expected to take to the skies in 2013, carrying Japan's hopes of developing a full-fledged civil aviation industry with it.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. (MHI) said it had decided to go ahead with the commercial development of the plane after landing its first order from All Nippon Airways for up to 25 aircraft. The new plane had "received high praise by world airlines for its extremely efficient fuel consumption and environmentally friendly technology," said Mitsubishi Heavy chief executive Kazuo Tsukuda. Mitsubishi already has experience in the aerospace industry, manufacturing wings for Boeing's next-generation 7E7 Dreamliner jet as well as its involvement in space satellite launch vehicles and rocket engines.
The 70-90 seat plane will use the new energy-saving "geared turbofan" engine designed by Pratt & Whitney.
Industry experts said that the project will be up against tough competition from rivals making small passenger planes, such as Canada's Bombardier and Brazil's Embraer, as well as jets designed by Russian and Chinese firms.
Mitsubishi said it planned to provide about two-thirds of the investment in the plane's development. It hopes to secure financial support to cover the remainder from Japanese companies including Toyota Motor Corp, Mitsubishi Corp, Mitsui & Co. Ltd. and Sumitomo Corp, along with the government-controlled Development Bank of Japan.
ANA, Japan's second-largest airline, said it had placed an order worth about $600 million for 15 of the jets, with an option for a further 10. Japan Airlines, Asia's largest carrier, has also said it is studying whether to buy the plane.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008