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Aerospace & Defense

Mitsubishi Aircraft replaces development chief in deep overhaul

The company will eliminate over half its jobs as it shifts from global ambition

Mitsubishi Aircraft will focus on obtaining certification for its aircraft for the Japan market instead of expanding overseas. (Courtesy of Mitsubishi Aircraft)

TOKYO -- Mitsubishi Aircraft reshuffled its leadership team on Monday as the Japanese company undertakes sweeping job cuts in a shift away from global expansion.

The company has decided to replace chief development officer Alex Bellamy with Yasuhiko Kawaguchi, who assumes the role of chief engineer. Kawaguchi has been leading the company's efforts in aircraft certification. 

Bellamy is expected to leave the company.

The "resizing" of the organization is expected to result in a loss of well over half of the 2,500 jobs at the aerospace company, which has 1,800 employees in Japan and about 700 in North America. The company, based in Nagoya, Japan, didn't disclose the exact scale of job cuts.

The announcement follows a decision by the company last month to withdraw from its overseas operations, which included a development center in Montreal, Canada, as well as the U.S. headquarters in Renton and a flight test center in Moses Lake, both in the state of Washington.

Bellamy, a former manager at Canadian aircraft maker Bombardier, has been with Mitsubishi Aircraft for the last four years, overseeing the development of its regional jet program and then its global expansion. Under him, the company started operating out of Nagoya, Renton and Montreal, rebranded the Mitsubishi Regional Jet into SpaceJet, and pursued the development of a 76-seater SpaceJet M100 for the U.S. market. 

Aircraft safety has also been upgraded, allowing the 88-seater M90 for the Japan market to be nearly ready for certification after 12 years in development.

With the departure of Bellamy, the company will shift its focus to completing the type certification for M90. The company already has an aircraft that has incorporated the fixes needed.

Overseas sales activity will be put on hold until the certification is complete, officials have said.

Mitsubishi Aircraft had been undertaking two programs -- M90 and M100 -- at the same time, but when demand for air travel collapsed with the outbreak of the coronavirus, the company was faced with two choices -- continuing with the uncertain but potentially lucrative M100 program or focusing only on the M90.

The company chose the latter. Business potential in the U.S. looked uncertain to them and launching a new program would have entailed an additional investment in the U.S. for the development, certification and production of M100.

Having already invested billions of dollars in the development of M90, it was difficult for Mitsubishi Aircraft to abandon M90 altogether.

Mitsubishi Aircraft is now in a survival mode -- enduring the crisis and trying to emerge from it until the aviation market recovers. Officials say they see positive signs, such as faster recovery of domestic air travel than international travel.

"This is going to be a rebuilding year," a Mitsubishi Aircraft official said. The company will reevaluate its future once it obtains type certification for M90 and if the industry becomes ready for expansion, the official said.

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