After denying that the SpaceJet program would be suspended, Mitsubihi Heavy Industries confirmed on Friday during announcements of its results, that the regional aircraft had its development “temporarily paused”.
According to the company, which controls the Mitsubishi Aircraft subsidiary, “Given current development status and market conditions, we have no choice but to temporarily pause the majority of SpaceJet activities, except for TC (Type Certification) documentation. We will work to review where we stand, make improvements , and assess a possible program restart.” The shutdown of the main activities applies to the 2021-2023 business plan, which begins in April next year.
The “freeze” of the SpaceJet program, which involves a family of regional jets with a capacity of between 70 and 90 passengers, had been revealed by the Japanese agency Kyodo, but denied by MHI. “It is true that we are considering several possibilities, but there is no truth in the reports that we decided to freeze development”, guaranteed the company last week.
Update on CRJ jets
With the new plan, Mitsubishi is expected to allocate just $ 192 million to the program, saving about $ 1.15 billion from cuts in investments and jobs – 2,000 layoffs related to the project are expected, in addition to the relocation of another 4,000 employees .
To return to profit, MHI plans to focus on the renewable energy sectors, but believes that the demand for air passenger traffic should return to last year’s levels starting in 2025.
According to the company, human resources from the defense divisions will be used to continue with the development of the M90, the first model of the family. In addition, Mitsubishi intends to share knowledge obtained from the CRJ aircraft line, acquired from Bombardier, to improve the project in areas such as sales and support and maintenance. The company also plans to study solutions for upgrading the huge fleet of CRJ aircraft.
The SpaceJet program was originally launched in 2003 as the Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) with support from the Japanese government that intended to create an indigenous passenger aircraft, which has not occurred since the 1960s when the NAMC YS-11 turboprop was launched, but had little demand in the market.
Since then, the first version, MRJ90 (now M90), with a capacity for 90 passengers, has undergone numerous delays in its development that culminated in the review of the project in 2019. The project has already consumed almost $ 10 billion.
In addition to changing the aircraft’s name to SpaceJet, Mitsubishi abandoned plans for the MRJ70, a smaller jet, to focus on the M100, which would meet the scope clauses of US airlines, the model’s main market. But this project also ended up being suspended in the first half.