Mitsubishi to delay delivery of regional jet

TOKYO — Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’s aircraft unit, which is making Japan’s first regional passenger jet, will delay the delivery of its first plane by about a year, a person familiar with the plan said.

Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp. will hand over its first regional jet in 2017, instead of an earlier plan to deliver by March 2016, according to the person, who declined to be identified as the information isn’t public. The company will hold a media briefing at 5 p.m. in Tokyo on the jet’s development, it said in a release today.

This will be at least the second time Mitsubishi will be postponing deliveries after it said in April 2012 that the first flight was delayed to confirm fabrication processes and complete technical studies. The Japanese company’s decision would follow Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China pushing back the maiden test flight of the country’s first large passenger plane to 2015 from an earlier plan for next year.

“The development of an aircraft is not easy and one will obviously face some difficulty to make and deliver the planes,” said Yukihiro Kumagai, an analyst at Jefferies Japan Ltd. in Tokyo. “I am also concerned about the impact on Mitsubishi from this delay.”

Mitsubishi Aircraft was earlier planning to have the first test flight of the regional jet in October. The Nagoya, Japan-based company is building 78-and 92-seater versions of the MRJ to compete with planes from Bombardier Inc. and Empresa Brasileira de Aeronautica SA as it forecasts global demand for 5,000 similar-sized aircraft over the 20 years to 2030.

Mitsubishi won an order for 200 planes including options, worth $8.4 billion at list prices, last year from U.S. commuter carrier SkyWest Inc.

The Japanese planemaker and China’s Comac follow Russian- built Superjet, a venture between Sukhoi and Finmeccanica SpA, to develop planes with a capacity to seat about 90 people. Interjet, the Mexican low-cost airline, was the first carrier outside the former Soviet Union to operate the Superjet after getting delivery in June.

Comac delayed the flight of C919, a 168-seat aircraft, because of certain procedures that aren’t linked to technical matters, four company officials familiar with the plan said this month. In November, the Chinese planemaker said its smaller ARJ21 may not enter service for another two years.

Mitsubishi in March said it is set to reap the benefits of a weakening yen after securing more than $4 billion of contracts for its plane when the currency was near a record high against the dollar. The Japanese yen has declined more than 19 percent in the past year.

The Japanese aircraft maker has won 325 orders, including options, for the plane, topping the company’s goal of up to 250 planes before the Mitsubishi Regional Jet’s first flight, Chief Executive Officer Hideo Egawa said in an interview in Tokyo on March 8.

Bombardier wants to add a salesperson dedicated to Japan to win orders from All Nippon Airways Co. and Japan Airlines Co. for its CSeries jet, which seats 110 to 130 passengers, Andy Solem, vice president of sales for China and North Asia, said in February.

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