Trans States closes on Mitsubishi RJ deal

 - February 25, 2011, 8:15 AM

St. Louis-based Trans States Holdings (TSH) signed a firm order for 50 Mitsubishi Regional Jets and secured options on another 50, Mitsubishi Aircraft announced in February during a ceremony held in Nagoya, Japan. The sides finalized and executed the so-called definitive purchase agreement on December 27, almost 15 months after TSH signed a letter of intent to become the first U.S. customer for the 76- to 88-seat family of regional jets.

"We have been excited about the MRJ program for a long time, and we are extremely pleased to conclude this major order on December 27 last year reaffirming the 100-aircraft commitment we made with our LOI," said TSH president Rick Leach during the ceremony. "Since that launch order, we have learned a lot about the quality of the Mitsubishi Aircraft team and the quality of the MRJ aircraft. Both have given us great confidence. In addition, many good things have happened with the MRJ itself. Mitsubishi Aircraft has entered the production drawing phase for the MRJ and continues to proceed with the manufacturing process."

Accompanied by Mitsubishi Aircraft president Hideo Egawa, Leach also visited the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Tobishima plant, where the projectπs various partners expect final assembly of the MRJ to start soon. 

The start of MRJ production–marked by the cutting of the first metal by MHI on September 30–signaled the successful conclusion of last summerπs detailed design review, during which MHI froze the final configuration of the 88-seat MRJ90 and reached conclusions about the changes needed for the 76-seat MRJ70 and the still unlaunched 100-seat MRJ100X. Following MHI's lead, project partners launched manufacturing of the various components for which they have taken responsibility, based on production drawings now in process.

Plans call for the MRJ90 to fly for the first time next year, gain Japanese certification in late 2013 and enter airline service during the first quarter of 2014. The MRJ70 would likely gain certification approximately a year later. The MRJ100X remains in the preliminary design phase. Still lacking a customer, that airplane likely wonπt reach the market until 2016 or 2017, depending on when the company decides to launch the program.

Meanwhile, BAE Systems last year signed a multi-year agreement with Mitsubishi Aircraft under which it will initially provide engineering development and integration services related to flight-test equipment and systems for the Pratt & Whitney PW1200G-powered aircraft. The contract complements another deal under which a team from BAE Systems' Regional Aircraft business at Prestwick, Scotland, supports engineering on a number of work packages, including the powerplant, pylon, nacelle, auxiliary power unit and fuel systems.

With the TSH order, Mitsubishi Aircraft has collected firm orders for 65 airplanes, including fifteen 88-seat MRJ90s from launch customer All Nippon Airways, which also holds options on another 10.