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Japan cancels Mitsubishi SpaceJet, grounding dream of homegrown airliner | Japan

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Japan has abandoned plans to build its first homegrown passenger jet after years of technical setbacks and soaring costs.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has said it will cancel the public-private SpaceJet project, a decade after the aircraft was supposed to have gone into commercial service.

The company said the regional jet, which suffered repeated delivery delays and technical glitches, had “failed to confirm sufficient business viability”.

The twin-engine plane, designed to carry fewer than 100 passengers, was intended for short flights and was supposed to open a new chapter in Japan’s aviation sector.

But the project, which was launched in 2008 under the name Mitsubishi Regional Jet, suffered repeated setbacks and missed its 2013 rollout. It was put on hold in October 2020 after yet more glitches and a dramatic fall in demand for new aircraft during the coronavirus pandemic.

Some test flights were aborted because of air conditioning defects and other software problems, and the delays meant revisions to the original design were required.

The firm’s president, Seiji Izumisawa, admitted that Mitsubishi Heavy “lacked the know-how” to develop passenger jets. “We are no longer sure of its business viability,” he told reporters.

The company said in a statement that it had been “difficult to obtain understanding and necessary cooperation from global partners”, adding that “further extensive funding” was needed to get the plane’s design approved.

North American regulations, pilot shortages and the need to find “decarbonisation solutions” also contributed to the project’s demise. The decision would have “no material impact” on the company’s financial results.

The aircraft, renamed SpaceJet in 2019, was supported by the Japanese government and domestic firms including Toyota. At one point it had attracted about 450 orders, including those from Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways, but many were cancelled.

Some experts said Mitsubishi Heavy had been “too confident” of its ability to build a passenger jet, having manufactured fighter planes during the second world war.


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