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Trans States drops order for largest Mitsubishi SpaceJet

Oct. 31, 2019
3 min read
Trans States drops order for largest Mitsubishi SpaceJet
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Regional operator Trans States has cancelled its commitment for the Mitsubishi Aircraft SpaceJet M90, a not-unexpected move as the aircraft remains barred from operating in the feeder fleets of U.S. majors.

St. Louis-based Trans States -- whose subsidiaries operate regional flights for American Airlines, Delta Air Lines (only through the middle of 2020) and United Airlines -- ended its nearly decade-old order for 50 firm SpaceJet M90s plus 50 options, Mitsubishi said Thursday. The airframer added that discussions continue with the regional airline over a possible future order for the smaller M100.

"When we established our contract with [Trans States], the outlook on the regional market was very different," Hisakazu Mizutani, president of Mitsubishi Aircraft, said in a statement. "Scope clause has not relaxed as anticipated."

The M90 was known as the Mitsubishi Regional Jet MRJ90 until June, when the program was rebranded under the SpaceJet name.

Related: Mitsubishi rebrands Its regional jet Line

Mizutani referred to the limits on the size and weight of aircraft that regional affiliates can operate for major carriers outlined in the latters' respective pilot contracts, also known as scope clauses. The contracts at American, Delta and United all limit regional aircraft to no more than 76 seats and a maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of 86,000lbs.

The M90 seats 88 passengers in a single-class configuration, and has a MTOW of 94,358lbs, according to Mitsubishi.

“Most customers tell us they see limited changes in scope clauses" coming in the next five years, Mitsubishi Aircraft chief development officer Alex Bellamy said at the Regional Airlines Association (RAA) annual convention in September.

Mitsubishi has responded to this lack of change on U.S. regional jet restrictions by launching a scope-compliant model, the SpaceJet M100. The aircraft can carry 76 passengers in a three-class layout with first class, extra-legroom economy and economy seats, and has a MTOW of 86,000lbs.

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The name "SpaceJet," while possibly eliciting images of outer space travel more akin to Virgin Galactic, is actually a marketing tool to emphasize the space in the passenger cabin.

Related: Touring Mitsubishi’s Extra-Roomy SpaceJet M100

To date, Mitsubishi has landed 115 commitments for the M100, including a 100 aircraft deal from American and United feeder Mesa Airlines. The remaining 15 are from an unnamed customer.

The M100 is expected to make its first flight in late 2021 or early 2022, with the first delivery scheduled for 2023. Mesa is due to take its first aircraft in 2024.

Trans States was not immediately available to comment on its decision to cancel the SpaceJet order.