ANA considering new Mitsubishi Heavy fuel-efficient plane

Tokyo (Thomson Financial) - Japan's All Nippon Airways said Tuesday it was considering buying the proposed new fuel-efficient regional plane designed by heavy engineering firm Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd.

The Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ), a prototype of which was shown at last year's Paris Air Show, is billed as the quietest, lightest and most fuel-efficient model in its class.

The MRJ would have 70-90 seats and be the first plane equipped with the new energy-saving "geared turbofan" engine designed by US-based Pratt & Whitney.

The MRJ project, which enjoys state support, aims to compete with small aircraft made by Canada's Bombardier and Brazil's Embraer, as well as jets designed by Russian and Chinese firms.

"Indeed we are considering the MRJ, but we are also looking at similar products from Bombardier and Embraer," said a spokesman for All Nippon Airways, Japan's second largest carrier.

He said the airline was looking for a plane in between its fleet of Boeing 737s, which seat 120-130 people, and its 74-seater Q400s made by Bombardier.

"We are looking for an aircraft, going forward, that can fill the gap so that we can meet demand more flexibly with the right-sized aircraft," he said.

Mitsubishi Heavy chief executive Kazuo Tsukuda has said the company will decide by the end of March whether to go ahead with the MRJ project based on the expressions of interest it gets.

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