The Mitsubishi Spacejet program, aimed at producing a regional jet for the commercial aviation market, has come to an end.
The project was initiated in 2008 by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) with the aim of building a new regional jet to compete with other established manufacturers in the market.
Delays and high losses
However, the project faced numerous delays and rising costs, causing potential customers to lose interest and not place orders.
Despite a change of name to the Spacejet in 2019 in an effort to improve its image, the project was unable to turn around its fortunes.
The Spacejet program was beset by problems from the beginning. The Mitsubishi Regional Jet took off for its maiden flight in November 2015 after being postponed several times. But it was still not ready for series production. The planned first delivery date of 2013 was pushed back several times, eventually being postponed to 2022.
This prolonged delay, combined with increasing costs, caused a decline in customer interest and ultimately led to the project’s downfall.
The cost, which was originally estimated at 150 billion yen, rose to around 1 trillion yen – approximately 9.2 billion USD – by the time it was finally put on hold in August 2020.
MHI’s decision to dissolve its subsidiary, Mitsubishi Aircraft, and officially end the Spacejet program comes after years of financial losses for the company.
The program’s development caused ever-larger holes in MHI’s balance sheet, with 247 orders in total having been made at the time of its closure. The largest of these orders came from ANA All Nippon Airways, Japan Airlines, Mesa Airlines, and Skywest.
The end of the Spacejet program marks a disappointment for Japan’s aspirations of becoming a commercial aircraft manufacturer once again.
The country has a strong presence in the military aircraft market with aircraft such as the Kawasaki XC-2 transporter, the Kawasaki P-1 maritime reconnaissance aircraft, the Shinmaywa US-2 amphibious aircraft, and the Hondajet business jet.
However, despite these achievements, Japan has yet to establish itself as an independent supplier of commercial aircraft.
It seems that Japan’s dream of becoming a commercial aircraft manufacturer will remain unfulfilled for the time being.
The commercial aviation market is already well-developed with products from established manufacturers such as Airbus and Boeing, Embraer, ATR, Comac, and UAC. It is unlikely that a new attempt will be made to enter this market in the near future, following the failure of the Spacejet program.