Mitsubishi mulls restarting its mothballed SpaceJet program
Mitsubishi SpaceJet regional jet stands on the ramp of the Grant County International Airport. The company paused the program last year, but is considering bringing it back in 2021.
Staff Writer | May 12, 2021 1:00 AM
TOKYO, Japan — Despite eliminating its U.S. aircraft subsidiary and pausing development on its SpaceJet passenger aircraft, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) expects to continue working on the plane, with an eye toward eventually restarting the program and certifying it for sale.
According to a presentation Monday outlining the industrial giant’s fiscal year 2020 earnings (ending March 31) and fiscal year 2021 strategy, Mitsubishi said it will “continue type certification documentation and assess possible program restart” for the SpaceJet in 2021.
The company reported a loss of 116.2 billion Japanese yen ($1 billion) in 2020 on SpaceJet development, which had been mothballed for most of 2020, pushing the company’s aircraft, defense and space subsidiaries to post an overall loss of 94.8 billion Japanese yen ($872 million).
According to the presentation, the company expected to lose 120 billion Japanese yen on the SpaceJet in 2020. The company reported a loss on the SpaceJet in 2019 of 263.3 billion Japanese yen ($2.4 billion).
Overall, for fiscal year 2020, MHI reported a profit of 54 billion Japanese yen ($496 million) on revenue of 3.7 trillion Japanese yen ($34 billion), surpassing forecasts for the year, according to the presentation.
The roughly 100-passenger SpaceJet is Japan’s first domestically produced passenger aircraft since the mid-1960s, and it is intended for commuter airlines on shorter routes to smaller airports.
At the height of the program, Mitsubishi employed more than 400 people flight testing the SpaceJet at the Grant County International Airport in Moses Lake in conjunction with Seattle-based AeroTEC.
Currently, four SpaceJets are stored in one of AeroTEC’s hangars at the Port of Moses Lake, maintained in the event MHI decides to restart the program.
According to the presentation, MHI has agreed to sell its machine tools division to Kyoto-based motor and engine maker Nidec Corp. and its Koyagi Shipyard in Nagasaki to Nagasaki-based Oshima Shipbuilding, noting in both instances, the sale makes a better fit for the buyers who are “better able” to use the assets.