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Aerospace & Defense

Mitsubishi Heavy to halt SpaceJet mass production and halve staff

Exclusive: Program workforce to be reassigned as global aircraft demand slumps

The development of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries' SpaceJet commercial airliner has been plagued by years of delays. (Photo courtesy of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries)

TOKYO -- Mitsubishi Heavy Industries will sharply scale down its long-troubled SpaceJet program as it faces a global drop in demand for the planned Japanese-made regional jet amid the coronavirus pandemic, Nikkei has learned.

Subsidiary Mitsubishi Aircraft will halt plans for mass production of the 90-seat plane owing partly to delays in parts deliveries, according to an internal notice sent to staff.

The pandemic, which has stalled the process for receiving type certification -- a test of the plane's airworthiness -- has thrown up another obstacle to a aircraft program beset by design changes and other setbacks.

Mitsubishi Aircraft will postpone once again the delivery of the first SpaceJet to All Nippon Airways, which was due next year at the soonest.

Delivery of the aircraft has been delayed multiple times since the initial due date in 2013. Orders for about 300 of the planes in the 90-seat class are outstanding.

Mitsubishi Aircraft, based in Aichi Prefecture, will reduce its staff of about 1,500 people by roughly half. Workers affected by the cuts are expected to be relocated to the Mitsubishi Heavy parent company or other operations within the group.

The new cutbacks will go further than cost-cutting plans announced earlier this month.

Mitsubishi Heavy said on May 11 that it will revise development of a 70-seat-class SpaceJet designed for the North American market. Development costs for the plane during the current fiscal year ending March 2021 will be reduced to roughly 60 billion yen ($557 million), or half the scale of the previous financial year.

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