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Mitsubishi Heavy Begins Work on First Passenger Jet

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. said it began work on building Japan’s first regional passenger jet to challenge Bombardier Inc. and Empresa Brasileira de Aeronautica SA for orders for the aircraft.

Workers started cutting aluminum for the aircraft’s horizontal stabilizer, according to a statement posted today on Mitsubishi Heavy’s website. The aircraft’s first flight is set for 2012, the statement said.

Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp., the unit which is making the plane, plans to open more sales offices as it forecasts demand for 70- to 90-seat jets to increase over the next 20 years. The company, which aims to sell 1,000 aircraft over two decades, in June said it had as many as 125 orders for its Mitsubishi Regional Jet or MRJ.

The MRJ will be powered by engines from United Technologies Corp.’s Pratt & Whitney, which will help make the plane 20 percent more fuel efficient than regional jets currently flying, according to Mitsubishi Aircraft. The aircraft is designed to have a range of 3,410 kilometers (2,119 miles), enabling it to reach anywhere in the mainland U.S. from Chicago.

Customers include All Nippon Airways Co., which has ordered 25 planes. Mitsubishi Heavy, which counted on aerospace for about 17 percent of revenue in the 12 months ended March 31, also builds the carbon-fiber wings for Boeing Co.’s 787 Dreamliner.

Mitsubishi Heavy fell 0.3 percent to 316 yen as of 12:36 p.m. in Tokyo trading.

Bombardier, based in Montreal, and Embraer, as the Brazilian company is known, are the world’s third- and fourth-largest aircraft makers.

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