Without any prospect of a first delivery nor that of a first customer, US lessor Aerolease Aviation has had no option but to cancel its order for ten Mitsubishi SpaceJet M90s. Aerolease and Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation announced on January 8 that they ended the contract on December 31, 2020.
Aerolease was the first lessor to order what was called the MRJ90. It signed a Memorandum of Understanding for ten firm plus ten options at the 2016 Singapore Airshow, which was confirmed on August 30 that year. Back then, entry into service of the first MRJ with ANA was expected in early 2018. But after a design review, Mitsubishi announced a two-year delay in January 2017 as a redesign of the electrical system and avionics bay was required. Despite making good progress and about to enter the final stage of certification, the program – relaunched as SpaceJet in Paris 2019 – has been practically put on hold in the last few months. In December, the SpaceJet budget has been reduced and staff cut by 95 percent. While not officially pronounced dead, SpaceJet has entered hibernation until further notice.
This hasn’t been the only problem for Aerolease. The US Scope Clause, which restricts the operation of regional aircraft over 76-seats with US airlines, remains unchanged. Back at the 2017 Paris Airshow, Aerolease managing partner Jep Thorton told the author that he would seriously consider changing his order for MRJ90s to the smaller MRJ70 if Mitsubishi was to launch that one first. His optimism at the time that scope clause would be resolved in a matter of time has been unfulfilled. This has made it very difficult to plan ahead and find airlines that were willing to have a serious look at the MRJ, which he has always hailed as a great aircraft.
While the Miami-based lessor and Mitsubishi have terminated the contract, both keep the door open for future possibilities. In their joint press statement, they say they will revisit a re-contract again when the development of the SpaceJet resumes. “It is clear to us that the market is in need of such an aircraft and that creates a unique opportunity. Although our agreement with Mitsubishi Aircraft has ended at the end of 2020, we wish the team success in eventually restarting the program as soon as practicable and we remain interested in resuming our relationship with them when that happens.”
The SpaceJet M90 order book now includes 157 firm orders, of which fifteen from ANA, 32 from Japan Airlines, 100 from Skywest, and 10 from lessor Rockton. Mesa ordered fifty of the smaller and yet to be launched M100s. Besides Aerolease, the program lost an order for fifty-plus fifty options from Trans States Holding in 2019 as the type didn’t meet scope clause.
Active as a journalist since 1987, with a background in newspapers, magazines, and a regional news station, Richard has been covering commercial aviation on a freelance basis since late 2016.
In 2022, he has gone full-time freelance. Richard has been contributing to AirInsight since December 2018. He is also writing for Airliner World and Aviation News. From January 2023, he will add a part-time role with Dutch website and magazine Luchtvaartnieuws. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.