Mitsubishi Aircraft sees more orders for jet, shrugs off cancellation

FILE PHOTO: An aerial view shows Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp's Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) taking off for a test flight at Nagoya Airfield in Toyoyama town, Aichi Prefecture, central Japan, in this photo released by Kyodo November 11, 2015. REUTERS/Kyodo

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp forecast more orders for its regional jet this year due to a cyclical upturn in the market, shrugging off the impact of last month’s cancellation of an order for the long-delayed commercial aircraft.

The jet maker, whose parent is Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd, is building Japan’s first commercial aircraft in 50 years but the program has been delayed five times and is facing rising costs.

“From now till our first delivery we will be on an upturn to get more orders and strong interest from potential airline customers,” Yugo Fukuhara, vice president of sales and marketing, told reporters on Tuesday on the sidelines of the Singapore Airshow.

The program suffered a blow last month when U.S.-based Eastern Air Lines canceled an order for 20 of its Mitsubishi Regional Jets, or MRJs, the first cancellation for the aircraft.

That cancellation left it with 213 firm orders from six customers but Leeham Co analyst Bjorn Fehrm said in a note to clients that two more sizable orders from U.S. buyers for a combined 150 jets “are troubled”.

Fukuhara, however, said that the Eastern Air Lines cancellation was not because of any issues with the MRJ program but because of the carrier’s business configuration had changed after it was sold to charter airline Swift Air.

“This termination or cancellation didn’t affect any orders from our other customers...We have constant communication with them and they confirm that they have strong commitment to the MRJ program,” he said.

He also said that the company was not currently considering plans for partnerships with other aircraft makers, but added that “in the future, anything can happen”.

Asked about the impact of the Kobe Steel scandal, he said that the firm investigated potential effects but concluded that it had no impact on flight tests or on the program’s milestones.

Reporting by Brenda Goh and Fathin Ungku, Writing by Jamie Freed; Editing by Edwina Gibbs and Muralikumar Anantharaman