To the beat of traditional Japanese taiko drummers, Mitsubishi rolled in their new MRJ. About 3 1/2 years behind schedule, the aircraft apparently has been noted for high quality workmanship already. Mitsubishi is building 78- and 92-seat versions developed at a cost it estimates at $1.7bn. The company plans to conduct a first flight in June, with the larger model available first.
In terms of regional jets, the MRJ is the first of the next generation and is a clean sheet design. The MRJ competes with the SSJ (doing better than expected), the CRJ (refreshed but thought to be aging) and the E-Jet (being updated). The MRJ enters a highly competitive segment between 70 and 130 seats.
The market is probably not large enough to sustain four OEMs. Segment (66-149 seats) forecasts vary widely is sympathy for builds what sizes: Bombardier’s 13,000; Embraer’s 10,200; Superjet 5,200 and MRJ’s 5,360. OEM forecasts are therefore to be expected to be, shall we say, ambitious. As an important engine maker in this segment, Pratt & Whitney sees potential for 5,867 aircraft. Rolls-Royce only sees a market for 2,470. Industry forecast specialist Teal Group sees only 1,836.
How to win in this segment? It helps to have access to very deep pockets and a horizon that stretches far out. MRJ has this. While the MRJ looks good, it has yet to fly and prove its numbers. Chances are the MRJ will deliver, but in this industry we expect delays. Running nearly four years late, the MRJ is like other aircraft programs, rich in promise.