Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation has renamed its MRJ program as the SpaceJet and announced a revamp of the MRJ70 alongside an evaluation of adding a 100-seat regional jet to the lineup.
The name change, announced on Thursday (US time), means the MRJ90, which is designed to seat between 76-92 passengers, will become known as the SpaceJet M90, while the smaller MRJ70 has been “retired” in favour of the SpaceJet M100.
Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation said the SpaceJet M100 “evolved from a concept study for the now retired MRJ70 designation”.
Further, the aircraft “optimised to be scope clause compliant in the 65-76 seat, three-class cabin configuration”.
And in non-US markets, the aircraft could be flexibly configured for other global market needs with up to 88 seats in a single class.
Scope clause contracts between the major United States airlines and their pilots unions restrict the types of aircraft that can be flown by regional affiliates.
This is usually based on maximum takeoff weight, which in the case of the major United States airlines was 39,000kg, the number of seats on board (usually no more than 76) and number of aircraft in the fleet.
Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation president Hisakazu Mizutani said the Spacejet M100 was the “answer to the regional market’s current and future needs”.
“These products mark our dedication to a segment in desperate need of change that will allow airlines to enhance the satisfaction of their passengers and significantly improve their business performance,” Mizutani said.
Although the MRJ70 would have met the 39-tonne maximum takeoff weight limit with 69 passengers in a two-class configuration, there were other aircraft in the market with better operating economics.
The company said it would present a mockup of the SpaceJet M100 cabin interior at upcoming Paris Air Show.
VIDEO: Some air-to-air footage of the Mitsubishi Regional Jet from the Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation YouTube channel.
Meanwhile, Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation said work was ongoing towards the certification of the SpaceJet M90, with first delivery slated for 2020.
The company said type certification flight testing was underway at Moses Lake, Washington State with both the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB) and the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Also, it recently opened a new US headquarters in Renton.
The SpaceJet family of aircraft is powered by Pratt & Whitney PurePower Geared Turbofan PW1200G engines, which received FAA certification in 2017.
Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation chief development officer Alex Bellamy said the regional sector was an attractive market full of untapped growth potential.
“Millions of people around the world rely on regional air travel to get to where they need to go,” Bellamy said in a statement.
“There is no reason that their experience as passengers should not be as good as or better than on a mainline flight.
“The SpaceJet family provides the missing link in a curb-to-curb experience for the next generation of travellers, while bringing a higher level of value to a neglected and undervalued market segment.”
A brochure published on the Mitsubishi Aviation Corporation website showed a larger SpaceJet M200 variant for up to 100 seats was under study.