MRJ90STD JA23MJ MST 15Jun19 Bjorn van der Velpen 640Japanese SpaceJet bites the dust...

In 1962, the Nihon Aircraft Manufacturing Corporation (NAMC) YS-11 took off for its first flight. The sixty-seat Rolls-Royce Dart-powered turboprop was the first Japanese civil aircraft after World War II, and the hope was for it to be the first of many.

A little over fifty years later, in 2015, what was then called the Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ), took off for its first flight having been launched eight years earlier. But another eight years on and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has finally pulled the plug on the project, officially stating on 7 February 2023 that it will not restart development.

The SpaceJet, as the MRJ has been called since 2019, was not necessarily bound to fail. In 2007, large regional jets were in high demand. While the Bombardier CRJ was unpopular with passengers, Embraer had just proven that it is possible to successfully bring a new aircraft design to the market with its E-Jets.

Of course, there was a major difference between Mitsubishi and Embraer. The Brazilian manufacturer had slowly built expertise in the design and integration of aircraft, were all necessary steps enabling the company to eventually build relatively large and complex aircraft like the E-Jets and today’s E2 series.

But, there has not been a continuous history of aircraft manufacturing since the start of YS-11 production, which ceased in 1972.

Mitsubishi and its partners paid dearly for their lack of experience, even though they aqcuired the CRJ900/1000-programme from Bombardier to gain extra knowledge. However, since those types were also on the verge of extinction it did not have the desired outcome.

Initially due for first delivery in 2013, the programme was delayed six times. Lots of design flaws were discovered during development and even after the first flight, forcing highly expensive extra work and a restart of certification leading to multi-years delays.

This was not uncommon at the time, as Airbus, Bombardier and Boeing all underwent schedule trauma with their respective A380 double-deck quadjet, single-aisle C Series aircraft, and 787 twin-aisle twinjet. Farnb MRJ90 JA23MJ FAB 16Jul18 Malcolm Nason file info 320

Sadly, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries decided recently to stop the project all together, ending Japans resurgence into the civil aviation manufacturers market. 

They had orders and options of the following airlines/lease companies: All Nippon Airways (to be operated by ANA Wings) for fifteen M90s, with options for ten more, SkyWest for 100 orders and 100 options, Japan Airlines (for J-Air) 32, Rockton AB (lease) ten and ten and finally Mesa Airlines for fifty M100s, with an option on fifty more. 

Flight Test Aircraft overview
FTA-1 JA21MJ 10001 Flight envelope expansion, systems tests, parked Moses Lake (WA) since 12 May 2020
FTA-2 JA22MJ 10002 Performance assessment and function tests, parked Moses Lake (WA) since 3 February 2020
FTA-3 JA23MJ 10003 Detailed flight characteristics measurement, avionics tests, parked Moses Lake (WA) since 16 March 2020
FTA-4 JA24MJ 10004 System and interior test, community noise tests, icing tests, parked Moses Lake (WA) since 23 March 2020
FTA-5 JA25MJ 10005 Autopilot tests (painted in launch customer ANA colours), parked at most likely Moses Lake (WA)

Photos: Scramble Archive

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