Mitsubishi Acquires Bombardier’s RJ Program

Canadian manufacturer will focus on business jets and rail service.

CRJ-100 Comair
The entry of jets to the regional airlines in the mid-1990s meant the end of the road for most smaller turboprop passenger aircraft.David Mueller/Wikipedia Commons

Bombardier made a name for itself in the U.S. regional airline industry in the late 1990s when it began delivering the first CRJ-100 regional jets to Cincinnati-based Comair Airlines. The entry of regional jets to the U.S. airline marketplace spelled the death of most 19 and 30-seat regional turboprops.

Times have certainly changed some 20 years later as Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Tuesday announced its acquisition of Bombardier's regional jet business for $550 million, as well as the assumption of some $200 million of the Canadian aircraft builders liabilities. For now, Bombardier will continue building new RJs in Canada to fulfill the backlog of orders on hand. Mitsubishi has also expressed interest in taking on the sales and support roles for Bombardier's RJ series.

This deal pretty much removes Bombardier from the commercial aircraft side of the industry. Bombardier signed a joint venture in late 2017 with Airbus for the C-series, now known as the A220. The Canadian builder also sold the Q-series turboprop program to an affiliate of Longview Aviation Capital Corp.

The RJ acquisition offers Mitsubishi a much needed shot in the arm for its long-struggling commercial aircraft program led by the former MRJ, now called the Spacejet, some eight years behind schedule. Mitsubishi has not yet announced where it plans to build the former Bombardier aircraft once the current order backlog is exhausted, although the Canadian manufacturer hopes the Japanese will consider the current factory in Mirabel, Quebec, should U.S. sales of the Spacejet take off.

The Mitsubishi/Bombardier deal is set to close in early 2020. Following the closing, Bombardier plans to focus on business jets and global rail service.