Japan rolls out 'long-held dream' with first commercial jet in 50 years
By Tim Kelly
NAGOYA (Reuters) - To the sound of drums and a children's choir, Mitsubishi Aircraft on Saturday rolled out Japan's first commercial jet in half a century, amid doubts it can attain an ambition to sell more than 2,000 aircraft in a competitive market segment.
Developed by a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries that includes Toyota Corp as a shareholder, the $42-million regional jet, with just under 100 seats, is Japan's second bid to break into the commercial aircraft market.
"This has been a long-held dream of ours, and one that all of Japan has waited for," Hideaki Omiya, chairman of Mitsubishi Heavy, said at a factory in Nagoya in central Japan, which was also the site of the roll-out, 75 years ago, of the prototype of the World War Two-era Zero fighter plane.
The ceremony, attended by about 500 people, kicks off a sprint to complete flight tests before the first delivery of the aircraft in June 2017 to ANA Holdings Inc.
That target is three years later than initially planned.
Japan failed in its last attempt to break into the commercial aircraft market in the 1960s, with a 64-seat turboprop dubbed the YS-11. Only 182 planes, built by a consortium that included Mitsubishi Heavy, were ever made.
Mitsubishi has so far won 191 firm orders from customers including U.S. regional groups Trans States Holdings and SkyWest Inc, and Japan Airlines Co Ltd.
Analysts say the figure is less than the several hundred planes it needs to sell to break even and far behind the orders it needs to overtake the market leader, Brazil's Embraer SA. Continued...