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Mitsubishi SpaceJet won't be ready until late 2021

New delivery target unveiled after sixth delay

The Mitsubishi Aircraft SpaceJet includes more than 1 million parts, each with high interdependencies, and any changes require time to check the impacts. (Photo courtesy of Mitsubishi Aircraft)

TOKYO -- Mitsubishi Aircraft has postponed delivery of the SpaceJet for a sixth time to late 2021 or 2022, adding more turbulence to its effort to build Japan's first homegrown passenger jet.

The new delivery target was unveiled at an internal meeting Friday and is expected to be announced publicly as early as Feb. 6.

The aircraft, originally branded as the Mitsubishi Regional Jet, was previously slated for delivery in mid-2020. But delayed parts shipments set back the development of test units for the type certification needed from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism to fly commercially.

As the jetliner is said to include more than 1 million parts, time is also needed to investigate the impact of changes to the aircraft design made over the past few years.

With type certification unlikely to be obtained in time, Mitsubishi Aircraft had presented parent Mitsubishi Heavy Industries this past fall with new timelines for delivery. Mitsubishi Heavy CEO Seiji Izumisawa has also described the development schedule as "under review."

The repeated delays now put the delivery date at least eight years after the original 2013 target and are pushing airlines to rethink fleet plans. ANA Holdings unit All Nippon Airways, slated to be the first to receive the SpaceJet, has not included the aircraft in its domestic flight plans for fiscal 2020.

Mitsubishi Aircraft has received orders for 400 units but is discussing possible compensation for the delays with clients. U.S. airline operator Trans States Holdings canceled an order for 100 aircraft, and others could follow suit.

Concerns are growing on the supply side as well. Toray has decided to halt production of key carbon fiber components for the SpaceJet as the delayed timeline ramps up costs.

Mitsubishi Heavy's jet program was launched in March 2008 to much fanfare. The company has since poured more than 600 billion yen ($5.49 billion) into development, in addition to 50 billion yen in government assistance.

Mitsubishi Heavy has also increased the capitalization of Mitsubishi Aircraft, adding to the project's financial burden.

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