Meet Japan’s First (and Very Delayed) Regional Jet

Mar 3, 2017

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If you’ve ever been on an American, Delta or United domestic flight under four hours, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve flown on a regional jet. These RJs are smaller planes that typically hold 50 to 90 passengers, are mainly used for short-haul routes and are made by two companies you’re probably familiar with: Bombardier, based in Canada, and Embraer, based in Brazil.

Now, Japan is planning to enter the market with its new Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ), which will be designed and manufactured in Nagoya, Japan. Two versions of the new jet are being planned; the MRJ90, which will hold close to 90 people, followed by the smaller MRJ70, which will hold about 70. Mitsubishi has been in the commercial aircraft manufacturing game for a while now, producing parts such as the wing box of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Why Is the MRJ Important to Flyers?

Chances are, you’ll soon be flying on one of these. Trans States Holdings, which operates regional flights for both American and United, has ordered 100 MRJs with options for 100 more, while SkyWest, which runs regional flights for Delta and United, has also ordered up to 40 of these planes.

The planes will feature a 2-2 seating configuration in every row, meaning nobody will end up in the dreaded middle seat. The seats will be 18.5 inches wide, which is huge in comparison to most other planes — the economy seats on United’s Boeing 777-300ER, for instance, measure just under 17 inches wide. Even the workhorse Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 fleets don’t have seats that wide.

What’s Taking So Long?

The MRJ has been in development since 2003, with its first design announcement being made at the 2007 Paris Air Show — it was first offered for sale in 2008. While the aircraft was originally scheduled to be delivered in 2013, that has since slipped several years to mid-2020. The MRJ first flew in late-2015, and in 2016, Mitsubishi managed to build a few more of these and flew them to the US for flight testing at the Moses Lake, Washington, facility, where Boeing tests its new planes. It’s fair to mention that both the Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 were delivered years behind schedule. Japan is new to the regional jet game and is obviously putting safety first, which nobody will hold against them.

Before going into service with airlines, the MRJ has to receive an official certificate of approval from the aviation governing bodies within the countries it expects to fly, something that’s expected to happen in 2019. Once this type certificate is delivered to the first airline customers, carriers will spend several weeks flying the new aircraft, figuring out all the bells and whistles, while also training the flight attendants that will serve as its crew.

Featured image courtesy of the Mitsubishi Aviation Corporation.

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