Flying Mitsubishis Possibly Coming to the US

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.

Mitsubish Regional Jet

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.

17 Responses to Flying Mitsubishis Possibly Coming to the US

  1. cjensen says:

    I believe that the 328 is being flown by Vision Air out of Las Vegas. They are a small charter operator and Grand Canyon Tour company. I have also heard rumors about a new start up called Aaron Aviation in Vegas that is going to use them.

  2. Dan Webb says:

    Well the 328 had its problems. The jet version was very slow compared to other RJs…apparently because not many adjustments were made from the turboprop version. I’ve also read that Dornier just did a horrible job of supporting the aircraft, and this is what really turned Horizon off.

    Meanwhile, Bombardier could offer up the entire Q series, and clearly Horizon has enjoyed the bigger Q400. Dornier’s stretch of the 328 never materialized.

    Here Mitsubishi is already offering two stretches.

    However, much like Dornier, if Mitsubishi can’t support the aircraft well (which is of course a risk with a new vendor), it will have a tough time penetrating the American market.

  3. CF says:

    cjensen wrote:

    I believe that the 328 is being flown by Vision Air out of Las Vegas. They are a small charter operator and Grand Canyon Tour company. I have also heard rumors about a new start up called Aaron Aviation in Vegas that is going to use them.

    Holy cow, you’re right. And when did those guys get 737s?!?
    http://www.visionairlines.com/our_fleet

  4. David SFeastbay says:

    Well at least the MRJ looks better then that big ugly A380.

    Any new jet maker has the problem of getting people to trust that it can fly. But Airbus got over that, so someone new can also if it’s a good product.

  5. Andrew says:

    Anything — even an imaginary yet-to-be-built plane — would be an improvement over the 145′s that TransStates flies. I used to live in Madison, WI and was often stuck on those horrible little crop dusters for the short hop to ORD. Oh the relief of being near a major airport now… :)

  6. JM says:

    Mitsubishi has an extensive history in aircraft production whichis worth noting:

    http://www.centennialofflight.gov/essay/Aerospace/Mitsubishi/Aero58.htm

    From an historical perspective, they have a rich legacy in aviation already.

  7. enplaned says:

    “Off brand” manufacturers don’t have a great track record in producing commercially successful aircraft. The last folks to break into the business in a big way were Embraer, and that happened over decades (Bandierante, EMB120, ERJ, E-series jets).

    The MRJ does not appear to be a particularly exciting aircraft, at least from a construction standpoint. It’s going to be largely conventional metal construction. Compare to Bombardier’s C-Series, which in its current incarnation is going to be substantially composite construction. So one question is what, exactly, the MRJ is bringing to the party. Might have been a better idea for Mitsubishi to collaborate with Bombardier in bringing out a new range of aircraft from the 70-some seat thru 150 seat range, all using the PW1000G.

    Agree with Cranky that Flightblogger’s comparison between the A320 and the MRJ is substantially overblown.

  8. enplaned says:

    I guess it would be completely wrong (in many ways) to say that this Mitsubishi has a significant chance of being a Zero…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitsubishi_Zero

  9. Ryan says:

    Assuming that Mitsubishi and the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China are successful, the airplane market could be very good for airlines in the future. As we saw with Boeing, Airbus forced Boeing to design more efficient airplanes, and build them more efficiently. Competition has forced the manufacturers and engine makers to push their limits of technology. In turn the airplanes are becoming cheaper to operate without sacrificing quality. With more players on the market, sales tag prices will probably come down as well. Boeing and Airbus showed more than once how willing they were to slash prices to sell planes.

    While I agree that the MRJ doesn’t look to be anything too spectacular in terms of the 787/A350/C Series, I welcome more competition to continue the advancement of aircraft technology, and to potentially sell airplanes at a lower price which will allow airlines to lower their operating costs which could lead to lower fares and expansion of existing and new markets.

    Airlines have been killing each other’s yield’s to keep market share as travel has declined. It will be nice to see some of the cost savings of increased aircraft competition passed back on to the airlines.

  10. Allen says:

    I agree with the skepticism, they have a long road ahead of them.

    How much longer can Boeing and Airbus continue to ignore this part of the market?

  11. Scott says:

    Bombardier CSeries, with a LOI from Lufthansa, and the same geared PW Turbofans, is likely to be more popular with operators as Bombardier have a more significant track record making passenger aircraft.

    As for other types, how about the Sukoi Superjet 100. In production now, and partly funded by Boeing and an Italian company. What happens when someone in Central/South America starts ordering them, that could be a very interesting flood gate to open.

    In the meantime, EMB own the market outright with the 190/195, until someone else can start delivering.

  12. Wonko Beeblebrox says:

    CF wrote:
    Holy cow, you’re right. And when did those guys get 737s?!?

    http://www.airfleets.net/flottecie/Vision%20Airlines.htm

  13. dan powers says:

    the rice rocket…MU-2 mitsubishi was very succesfull

  14. CF says:

    JM wrote:

    Mitsubishi has an extensive history in aircraft production whichis worth noting:
    http://www.centennialofflight.gov/essay/Aerospace/Mitsubishi/Aero58.htm
    From an historical perspective, they have a rich legacy in aviation already.

    No question about it. But they don’t build commercial airplanes. dan is probably closest with the MU-2, but that was a little turboprop primarily used for corporate purposes. It also hasn’t been built in nearly 25 years. They certainly are good at building pieces of airplanes, but that’s very different than actually pushing a finished one out the door.

    Scott wrote:

    As for other types, how about the Sukoi Superjet 100. In production now, and partly funded by Boeing and an Italian company. What happens when someone in Central/South America starts ordering them, that could be a very interesting flood gate to open.

    Yeah, I’ve been watching the Sukhoi project with great interest. They’ve received a lot of help from Boeing on that one, and they have a massive built-in market in Russia if it’s a good plane. I think that could do something, but it will be very hard for a western airline to operate a Russian airplane just because of the stigma.

    Wonko Beeblebrox wrote:

    http://www.airfleets.net/flottecie/Vision%20Airlines.htm

    I always check Airfleets first, but I didn’t really trust it for this one. It doesn’t even mention the props, and Vision has no reference of the 767s on their site.

  15. AZ Sufferer says:

    The Italian partner on the Sukhoi superjet is Alenia, part of Finmeccanica. Finmeccanica companies produce a decent amount of Boeing parts, together with being partner on ATRs and producing, among other things, Marine 1.

    With Embraer, Bombardier, Sukhoi/Alenia, ATR and Mitsubishi all selling or developing what look to be, or are already, quality 50-150 seaters, is it really surprising that Boeing and Airbus seem so disinterested in developing new products for the category and seem to be content to reinforce their duopoly on bigger frames…?

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