Mitsubishi says delay will not hurt MRJ sales

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Despite another delay to its Mitsubishi MRJ regional jet's schedule, Mitsubishi Aircraft is confident that its sales prospects will not be diminished.

In a press conference on 22 August, the Japanese airframer announced that it would push back the MRJ's first flight more than 15 months to Q2 2015, with delivery to launch customer All Nippon Airways (ANA) pushed to the summer of 2017.

"We don't believe there will be an impact on MRJ sales, particularly from the angle that our aircraft is further along development, manufacturing and entry into service stages, as well as our stance that the MRJ is an overall superior, more fuel efficient aircraft compared to Embraer's E2," says a spokesman.

He adds that both Trans States Holdings and SkyWest Airlines have expressed "continued strong confidence" in the MRJ as well as their support for the programme.

The MRJ programme received a major boost last year when SkyWest made an order for 100 MRJ90s, with an option for an additional 100 of the type. SkyWest had, however, previously said that the availability of the MRJ in 2017 is one reason it picked the aircraft.

With the latest delay, the MRJ will only enter service one year ahead of Embraer's new E-190 E2, provided neither airframer changes its schedule.

When contacted, launch customer ANA said: "We regret the delay of MRJ's deliveries. we will examine the impact and make appropriate adjustments. We have to modify our fleet plan and network planning of small-size planes in order to avoid changes to our future plans."

In its latest announcement, Mitsubishi said it spent "significant time" building processes to validate safety in the design and development phase, and also in determining component specifications.

"Design and respective certification, however, have taken greater resources than anticipated which, in turn, impacted component deliveries and aircraft fabrication," it adds.

It gave an example of how previously safety was only proven for parts post-manufacturing. Now, all design and manufacturing processes must be clarified and documented with safety ensured by following approved processes.

The airframer also reiterated that "the programme schedule adjustment is in no shape or form due to the engine."

Last month, media reports surfaced in Japan citing a delay to Pratt & Whitney's PW1200G engine as a possible explanation for the regional jet's delay.

Pratt & Whitney says it continues to integrate the PW1200G with the MRJ and that it is on track to deliver the first engine as required by Mitsubishi's schedule.

This is the third time Mitsubishi has delayed its regional jet programme. In 2009, it unveiled extensive design changes, including the use of aluminium instead of carbon fiber composites for the aircraft's wings, pushing its first flight from Q4 2011 to Q2 2012. This was followed by another delay announced last April, pushing first flight back to Q4 2013.

Then, Mitsubishi said that there was a need for more detailed engineering work ahead of certification and that problems in Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) fabrication procedures were also spotted.

Mitsubishi has a backlog for 165 firm orders with 160 options.