From Aviation Week and Space Technology 2008 March

All Nippon Airways will be a launch operator for the Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ), committing itself to another pioneering role in an airliner despite its unhappy experience with Boeing 787 delays.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has taken an order from the airline for 15 of the 90-seat version of the advanced regional jet, which will boast a composite wing and Pratt & Whitney geared turbofan (GTF) engines. All Nippon has options on 10 more.

As the program nears the launch of full-scale development, Saab is in talks to join it in the area of after-sales support.

Mitsubishi has set itself an Apr. 1 target for launching the program. An order for 15 aircraft isn't enough to justify a launch, so if a go-ahead is announced by then it may be more formal than substantive, with serious resources remaining uncommitted until more customers are signed up.

A launch will also commit the potentially revolutionary GTF engine to production.

The MRJ is offered in two body lengths, with around 70 or 90 seats, and would compete most closely against the larger models built by Embraer and Bombardier and with China's forthcoming Avic 1 ARJ21 (AW&ST Mar. 17, p. 68).

Further prospective buyers include foreign carriers and Japan Airlines, although the latter hints it might be years away from ordering, if at all.

Mitsubishi has decided to build a plant outside Hanoi for making 737 flaps. That looks like helping the MRJ, since Vietnam Airlines is reportedly close to ordering 20.

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