Japan’s First Airliner Jet in Decades

After half a century, the first made-in-Japan commercial airliner will reach a development milestone later this week. Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp. is set to host a rollout ceremony on Saturday in Nagoya, central Japan, to reveal the long awaited Mitsubishi Regional Jet.

Marked as Japan’s first nationally funded, domestically manufactured passenger aircraft since 1973, the airplane has been anticipated for quite some time by the country. With government ministers and business partners attending the showcase on Saturday, the carbon-fiber composite passenger jet extends itself as a quasi-national project.

“Many people have been asking, ‘When is your aircraft going to be ready?’” said the company’s president, Teruaki Kawai, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. “Now we finally have made the aircraft almost ready to fly.”

Described as fuel-efficient and green, the MRJ90 design will seat a total of 88 people, while the MRJ70 will seat 76, and the planned MRJ100X will house 100 passengers. The first flight is billed for the second half of 2015, while the first deliveries are set for 2017.

Priced between $40 million and $50 million, Mitsubishi initially grappled to retain orders for the planes. However, to date, the company has received 191 orders from All Nippon Airways, Trans State Holdings, SkyWest, Air Mandalay, and Eastern Air Line with 184 additional purchase alternatives. Though not officially contracted, Japan Airlines announced in August that it would acquire 32 of the jets, with deliveries set for 2021.

“We hope to support the birth of a Japanese passenger jet which we can boast about to the world,” said Jian Yang, a JAL spokesman.

Over the next 20 years, Mitsubishi expects over 5,000 deliveries of the regional jets.

In addition, automaker Honda Motor Co. is also planning its own novelty business jet, the HondaJet. Only seating four-to-six passengers, the plane aims to be in service by 2015.

According to Mr. Kawai, Mitsubishi Aircraft has invested about $1.8 billion in development of the jet while shareholders include Toyota Motor Corp. and the Development Bank of Japan.

“For a long time, Japan has been successful in industries such as automobiles,” Mr. Kawai said. “It should last, but we need to find new industries. Aircraft manufacturing can be one of them.”