MRJ: Delivering Choice for the New Era in Regional Travel

The regional aviation market is in the midst of a substantial shift. With increased demand for point-to-point routes and rapid economic development in global markets, the industry is poised for enormous growth in the coming years. But challenges are evident as well. Regional operators will need to address aging fleets, corresponding maintenance cost increases and the effects of volatile (as of late, rising) fuel prices. And in the segment’s largest market, the United States, they will have to manage ongoing scope clause restrictions.

Taken all together, the picture that emerges shows an industry in which operators need every edge they can get to fight margin pressure and maintain competitiveness.

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Airlines need an aircraft that delivers transformative solutions to the demands of this reality. One that offers substantially better efficiency to handle rising fuel costs and stricter environmental regulations, a platform that can adapt as new pressures emerge in coming decades and an evolved cabin experience beyond what today’s regional fleets provide to passengers. 

This means ending the status quo in aircraft manufacturing. A decades-long duopoly has left airlines with little choice in regional aircraft as they look to upgrade their aging fleets and compete for passengers. In the U.S., they’ve offered no true solution to scope clause. This has created an opening for a new class of aircraft that is purpose built for the future regional market.

The Mitsubishi Regional Jet answers this call for choice. With the MRJ, we set out to create a family of aircraft that would transform regional air travel. As the industry’s only clean-sheet option for the sub-100 seat aircraft category, the MRJ family represents state-of-the-art technology in airframe design, engine efficiency and avionics. For operators, the result is best-in-class economics and proven Japanese reliability, which leads to a better bottom line.

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For passengers, the MRJ’s interior sets a new standard for comfort. Say goodbye to the middle seat. Without the constraints of a decades-old design, we created the tallest and widest cabin, widest seats, larger overhead bins and most quiet ride in all of regional aviation. Passengers won’t just prefer the MRJ above other regional jets, they will prefer it to the experience of any other single-aisle aircraft, period.

The countdown to this reality has begun. During the past year, we have made significant strides toward mid-2020 first delivery of the MRJ90 and thanks to this momentum, we are able to begin development of the MRJ70. Much of this was achieved thanks to unifying all operations under our Program Management Office and establishing an Integrated Product Team structure with cross-functional teams. This has quickened decision making and design problem solving, including the finalization of the wiring harness design. 

As we cleared design requirements, aircraft development has been a constant. Our global team in Japan and Washington state in the U.S. has worked on a 24/7 basis to develop and test the MRJ as it moves toward certification. The MRJ flight test fleet has surpassed 2,000 flight test hours, completing and progressing key performance requirements during the last year.

Our absolute top priority remains the completion and delivery of the MRJ90. With an augmented certification team that brings deep experience from other major aircraft programs, we have the best possible expertise to lead us through the remaining development process. Progress in flight testing, completion of critical design reviews and plans for certification have opened a clear path for first delivery of the MRJ90 by mid-2020. 

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The MRJ arrives at a crucial time. For decades, regional aviation has been the backwater of commercial air travel. But as economic growth spreads throughout global regions and aging aircraft reach the end of their life, the next 20 years will require more than 5,000 new regional jets. In the United States alone – where over 50 percent of the world’s regional jets are in service – more than 900 sub-100 seat jets will be retired by 2027. The MRJ family provides the answer as the simultaneous waves of regional fleet growth and refreshment arrive.

The MRJ90 and MRJ70 are both positioned to serve global demand. And the MRJ70 has the additional virtue of being the only clean-sheet regional jet that meets current U.S. scope clause restrictions. With fuel prices up 60% in the last year, the MRJ70’s economics make it especially valuable for future airline profitability. The MRJ family’s unmatched performance gives operators the ability to enhance their business, open new markets and maximize their investment in aircraft.

Delivering this choice to airlines is our mission, and we are firmly on track.

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While we are deeply focused on delivering the MRJ by mid-2020, Mitsubishi Aircraft is gearing up for production and planning for long-term customer support when the aircraft enters service. Our final assembly hangar in Nagoya is a fully operational smart factory, with an experienced workforce that draws on Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ history of aerospace expertise and advanced manufacturing. Our customer support team has years of global customer service experience that will allow us to confidently support coming decades of commercial operation.

In a regional market suffering from a lack of options, the case for the MRJ has never been clearer. The MRJ family, backed by MHI and a full platform of services, is the industry’s best choice in this new era of regional aviation. 

Tags: Passenger Experience, Environment, Program Management Office, Design, Craftsmanship, Engineering, Farnborough International Airshow, New Standard