American, United could soon be flying 'SpaceJets' after Mesa Airlines deal with Mitsubishi
Mitsubishi Aircraft's new SpaceJet M100 aircraft could soon be flying for American Airlines or United Airlines with a new commitment by their partner Mesa Airlines for up to 100 of the jets.
Phoenix-based Mesa signed a memorandum of understanding for 50 firm M100s, plus 50 options, at the Regional Airline Association's (RAA) annual convention in Nashville on Thursday. The first aircraft are due in 2024 depending on whether the regional carrier lands a contract with major U.S. airline for the planes.
"One of the attractions of this airplane we think [are] the economics, both in passenger acceptance and the [performance], create a lot of opportunity," Mesa chief operating officer Brad Rich told reporters at the convention.
Rich added that Mesa is already in discussions with major airlines, including its partners American and United, regarding flying the M100.
Mitsubishi rebranded its MRJ program as the "SpaceJet" in June. As part of the effort, the airframer launched the M100 to meet the restrictions on regional aircraft included in pilot contracts at the major U.S. carriers. The contracts limit the size of large regional jets to up to 76 seats, and maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) to 86,000 pounds.
Previously, Mitsubishi's two regional jet models -- the larger MRJ90 and smaller MRJ70 -- did not meet the restrictions for "scope," as the limits are known. The M70 model was discontinued as part of the reorganization.
The M100 is a smaller variant of the M90, capable of seating 76 in "three-class" configuration that includes first-class, economy plus and economy.
In its pitch to potential customers, the Japanese manufacturer touts the M100 as "mainline comfort for regional travelers." It claims the aircraft will have wider seats than other regional aircraft, and the largest overhead bins of airplanes in its class.
Related: Touring Mitsubishi’s SpaceJet M100
For airlines, the M100 will be equipped with the latest-technology geared turbofan engines. Those engines will reduce fuel burn by "double digits" compared to other large current-generation regional jets such as the Bombardier CRJ900s and Embraer 175s, Mitsubishi chief development officer Alex Bellamy said at the convention.
The M100 is expected to make its first flight in late 2021 or early 2022, with the first delivery scheduled for 2023. Mitsubishi received a commitment from an unnamed North American carrier for 15 of the aircraft in June.
Mesa flew 62 CRJ900s for American, plus 20 Bombardier CRJ700s and 60 E175s for United at the end of June, its latest fleet plan shows.
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