Don’t get too excited. It’s not a flying car that’s coming to the US (though a flying Mitsubishi Eclipse would look pretty sweet). It’s actually the new Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) that received its first interest from a US carrier. We’re pretty far away from actually seeing one of these bad boys over here, but I suppose we’re now one step closer.
Little Trans States is the one that bit by signing an ambitious Letter of Intent for 100 of the MRJs (pdf). Right now, they operate 30 ERJ-145s for United and US Airways as well as 22 CRJ-700s for United. This would be just shy of a 200% increase in fleet size . . . if they take them all.
Flightblogger is pretty excited about this one, and thinks it could be “on par with the 1986 order by Northwest Airlines and the 1996 order by United Airlines for A320 family aircraft, opening the door to a flood of new operators.” I’m not so sure about that.
The LOI is for 50 firm aircraft and 50 options, but again, it’s just an LOI. And there isn’t any sort of delivery timeframe mentioned either, though first delivery to ANA is supposed to be in 2014. But let’s say this does turn into an actual order. Will this be the opening of the flood gates? I highly doubt it.
Mitsubishi can build a lot of things, but they don’t build commercial aircraft. (They build pieces, but not the whole thing.) That doesn’t mean they can’t, but it also means that airlines will be doubly wary about jumping onboard without even seeing the thing fly. At least Airbus in the mid-80s had shown that they could get A300s and A310s in the air.
While that rosy comparison is possible, we’ve seen others come and go from the regional world without much more than a whimper. How about Dornier? Those 328s were supposed to be all the rage with Horizon and others ordering them. Now I don’t think you’ll find a single one flying in the US.
Let’s see if Mitsubishi can get this thing in the air with the fuel-saving numbers that they’ve been quoting. (This will be using the Pratt & Whitney Geared Turbofan.) If they can, then this could be a winner.
For Trans States, this is a pretty easy decision. If Mitsubishi ends up making a game-changer, then they undoubtedly got a smoking deal on the aircraft. If things don’t work as planned, I’m sure they have an out. Even if they do take delivery, the planes won’t be here for at least 5 years anyway, and that’s an eternity in this industry. It may seem a little crazy to dive in right now, but they don’t have much to lose.
I will say one thing. It’s a pretty mean looking aircraft (in a good way). But then again, so was the Dornier 328.