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Mitsubishi Just Started Testing a 90-Seat Passenger Plane

In may not be too long before airline passengers board a Mitsubishi jet, rather than a Boeing or Airbus

The Japanese conglomerate announced Monday that test flights of its new Mitsubishi Regional Jet have started in the U.S. If successful, the 90-passenger jet will become the first Japanese-built airliner since the 1960s.

It’s had some trouble getting off the ground, however. The Mitsubishi jet has been in development for more than a decade and faced seven years of delays in anticipated delivery—possibly more if the company misses the current planned delivery date of mid-2020.

That may be a tight turn-around. Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner was certified 20 months after starting flight tests; for Honda Motor’s HondaJet it took two years. Mitsubishi has less than 18 months.

Moreover, Mitsubishi faces stiff duopoly in the market. According to The Economist, virtually all passenger jets with 100 seats or more are built by Boeing or Airbus. The major manufacturers have also assiduously built up affiliations with smaller firms through strategic partnerships and buy-outs, making the airliner market incredibly tight to break into.

Despite this, Mitsubishi’s financial strength and experience in manufacturing airliner parts for other companies may make it the best-placed company to take on Boeing and Airbus, and that could ultimately reduce prices for airlines and passengers alike.