A new airliner took to the skies for the first time this week, but it's no Boeing or Airbus — it's from Mitsubishi, the Japanese conglomerate known for having its hands in everything from televisions to cars.
The Mitsubishi MRJ isn't about to knock any jumbo jets out of service, but it's still an extraordinarily important aircraft: besides being Japan's first-ever commercial jetliner (and its first commercial passenger plane in decades), it'll be going head-to-head against regional jets like the Embraer 170 and Bombardier's brand new C Series. Regional air travel — smaller planes flying shorter routes, often to smaller cities — is a burgeoning segment of the aviation market globally. If you've flown around the US much, odds are very good you've flown on an Embraer 170 or two. The MRJ will be initially available in two models seating 76 to 88 passengers in a normal configuration; the MRJ90, the larger of the two, is the model that just took to the skies this week after years in development.
This isn't an aircraft you'll need to go to Japan to experience: Western airlines are expected to use them, with a number of regional operators in the US already having orders in. US tests of the MRJ90 are expected to begin next year, with first deliveries in 2017.
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