Japan’s biggest aerospace manufacturer, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) today, Friday, October 30. officially announced it would suspend development of its SpaceJet regional jet programme, to focus on renewable energy and other businesses that will bolster profits.
MHI said it has halted SpaceJet’s development because the prospects for Japan’s first passenger aircraft in half a century have dimmed. The decision will allow it to halve jobs in its commercial aviation business, helping generate cost savings of 120 billion yen ($1.15 billion).
“We will work to review where we stand, make improvements and assess possible program restart,” MHI said of the regional jet in its business plan.
The company had earlier said “it is true that we are considering many possibilities” and would “continue to closely review the development timeline, taking into account the impact of the coronavirus.” But in its 2021 Medium-Term Business Plan released on Friday, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries said it would “temporarily pause development activities” and “review, make improvements and assess possible programme restart”. The company has spent more than a decade trying to develop a homegrown regional jet now called the SpaceJet, is said to be putting the programme on hold after sinking almost US$10 billion into the plane.
“Given current development status and market conditions, we have no choice but to temporarily pause the majority of SpaceJet activities…We will work to review where we stand, make improvements, and assess a possible program restart”. The company also said it would “expand resilient MRO business and utilise commercial aircraft business know-how” to participate in future international aircraft programmes. It added that it would “utilise human resources and know-how” going forward in the defence sector.
The company launched the regional programme back in 2008 as part of Japan’s efforts to develop its aerospace sector on an international scale but has suffered years of delays and setbacks. The company plans to keep trying for a type certification but is said to be cutting the programme’s and team by half to about 500 after earlier downsizing the development team and operations, according to earlier reports.
Seven years after the original planned delivery date, the SpaceJet still has yet to receive type certification, shipments have been postponed for at least six times and development costs have ballooned over their original estimates.