June 13, 2019 / 11:38 AM / 12 days ago

Mitsubishi Aircraft unveils SpaceJet brand, revamped version of smaller jet

FILE PHOTO: A Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation flag flies at Farnborough International Airshow in Farnborough, Britain, July 17, 2018. REUTERS/Toby Melville

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Japan’s Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp rebranded its MRJ family jets to be called the “SpaceJet” and unveiled a redesigned version of the smaller jet to help improve its sales prospects in the large U.S. market.

The SpaceJet M100, the revamped version of the MRJ70, will now have up to 76 seats in a typical U.S. cabin configuration rather than the earlier 69 seats, the company said on Thursday, making it a more attractive offering for regional carriers with contracts to major carriers.

“On paper, it looks good,” Leeham Co analyst Bjorn Fehrm said of the redesign. “The range is there, as is the space for the passengers.”

The larger SpaceJet M90, renamed from MRJ90, is too big for U.S. regional carriers to fly without the relaxation of pilot union rules, an unlikely prospect due to a pilot shortage that has given unions more bargaining power.

Of the 213 firm orders for Mitsubishi jets, 150 are split between two U.S. regional carriers, SkyWest Inc and Trans States Holdings.

The M100 cabin interior will be on display at next week’s Paris Airshow and Mitsubishi Aircraft said a formal launch of the program was expected later this year.

The M90 is due to enter service with Japanese carrier ANA Holdings Inc next year, compared with its initial target of 2013, after a series of program delays.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd, the largest shareholder in Mitsubishi Aircraft, this month said it was holding talks to buy rival Bombardier Inc’s money-losing regional jet program.

The Bombardier CRJs use older, less fuel-efficient engines, but buying the program would give Mitsubishi a global maintenance and support base that could aid with SpaceJet sales, according to analysts.

Reporting by Jamie Freed in Singapore; additional reporting by Nikhil Subba in Bengaluru; Editing by Mark Potter and Stephen Coates

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