Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is studying reactivating the assembly line for CRJ regional jets, Leeham News told on Tuesday.
The Japanese manufacturer reportedly received inquiries from Skywest airline for a possible order for the CRJ 550, a variant of the CRJ 700 with just 50 seats in three classes, according to the website.
When it purchased Bombardier’s CRJ program, MHI was interested in the aircraft’s customer network but did not intend to keep the assembly line running. Last year, the last CRJ 900s pending delivery were completed and the production line in Mirabel dismantled.
Now, the company would be considering building a new plant to resume production of the regional jet, which could remain at Montreal Airport, says Leeham News.
Skywest operates regional flights for United Airlines and Delta Airlines and could replace older CRJ 200s with the CRJ 550 which, while capable of carrying up to 76 passengers, is configured with just 50 seats in three classes to fit the scope clause.
The CRJ 200 fleet currently comprises around 650 aircraft, which reinforces a possible demand for the return of the CRJ.
Mitsubishi’s possible change of plans may have to do with problems with the SpaceJet program, currently suspended.
Developed to offer an aircraft with a low operating cost and generous interior space, the M90 and M100 models intended to place the Japanese manufacturer in the spotlight in the regional jet aircraft market, currently monopolized by Embraer.
However, continued development problems and the growing financial loss worsened by the pandemic caused the MHI to freeze the program with no clear prospects for a future resumption.
By reopening the CRJ’s assembly line, therefore, Mitsubishi could increase revenues and recover part of the investment made.
As the CRJ family is already approved in Canada and all production tooling has been preserved, the return to the market would be simpler and faster.
Same engine as E-Jets
The CRJ 550, CRJ 700, CRJ 900 and CRJ 1000 regional jets use the GE CF34 turbofan, the same one that equips the first generation of Embraer’s E-Jets, including the E175, the Brazilian company’s most commercially successful aircraft.
The new E2 family is equipped with the most efficient geared turbofan PW 1000G, from Pratt & Whitney. However, these aircraft have a higher capacity and a very high maximum takeoff weight compared to CRJs.
In response to LNA, Mitsubishi has denied planning to resume production on the CRJ and that it is focused on operationally supporting the existing fleet.