Days of MRJ regional jet delays are over, manufacturer says

(This version of the July 18 story corrects aircraft in paragraph 10 to 787, not 737.)

FILE PHOTO: A Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation flag flies at Farnborough International Airshow in Farnborough, Britain, July 17, 2018. REUTERS/Toby Melville

FARNBOROUGH, England (Reuters) - Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation says the days of delays to its MRJ regional jet are behind it, with flight displays at the Farnborough Airshow marking a turning point for the plane.

The aircraft, Japan’s first passenger plane since the 1960s, was back in the air on Wednesday after management kept it on the ground the previous day following a prang with a tow vehicle.

The program has been delayed by several years, with first customer ANA 9202.T now expecting the 90-seater plane in 2020, rather than 2013 as originally envisaged, and there are concerns the delays have hampered the jet's prospects.

“This is the turning point, demonstrating our aircraft,” chief development officer Alex Bellamy told Reuters.

He didn’t expect new orders at the air show, but is using the opportunity to show the jet to prospective customers.

Asked about the delays, Bellamy said that with over 2,000 hours of flight testing behind it, any major problems should now have been found.

“Our focus today is on keeping the schedule. The schedule we set a year ago, we’re still meeting that today. Those days (of delays) are behind us.”

Bellamy said that amid consolidation in the aerospace market, the MRJ provided competition.

“As we see consolidation in general in the marketplace, we bring much needed choice,” he said.

The project is backed by Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) 7011.T, which already makes aircraft components, such as wing boxes, for the Boeing BA.N 787.

Daniel Lochmann, global marketing communications director at MHI, said that making a whole new jet helped it improve manufacturing processes.

“This isn’t a dogfight between Mitsubishi, Boeing and Airbus. This enables us to become a better partner to Boeing.”

Reporting by Victoria Bryan; Editing by Mark Potter