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Tue, Aug 26, 2008

Another Manufacturer Eyes 150-Seat Airliner Segment

Kawasaki Considers Entering Fray

What was once the exclusive domain of airliner manufacturers Airbus and Boeing is fast becoming the most competitive segment in the market. Japanese manufacturing conglomerate Kawasaki Heavy Industries is reportedly considering entering the 150-seat segment, with a concept called the YPX.

According to the Montreal Gazette, Kawasaki aims to take attract buyers who may have considered Bombardier's upcoming CSeries airliner, which is slated to enter service in 2013 and offer between 110-149 seats. The similarly-sized YPX would sport largely composite construction, allowing it to fly 2,300 nautical miles while sporting a lower takeoff weight than the aluminum-bodied CSeries.

Like the CSeries (shown below), the YPX would compete in a segment largely abandoned by Boeing and Airbus; the most recent 110-seat airliner was Boeing's 717, itself a much-modernized derivative of the original Douglas DC-9 and later McDonnell Douglas MD-80 series. Boeing stopped building 717s in 2005.

Larger variants of the Kawasaki and Bombardier planes would also compete against smaller types of the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 Family... the most popular airliners in the world.

Kawasaki already produces a number of components used on commercial aircraft, including fuselage segments for Boeing's upcoming 787 Dreamliner. The company is also the primary contractor for the upcoming P-X Patrol and C-X cargo planes, both slated to enter service with Japan's military in 2011.

While it's unlikely Kawasaki could match Bombardier's scheduled EOS, the company would be able to speed development and cut costs on the YPX by using components from those programs. Fellow Japanese manufacturers Mitsubishi -- which is developing its own 70-90 seat airliner, the MRJ -- and Fuji would also likely be tapped for their assistance.

To date, the YPX exists only in some concept drawings... but Kawasaki has shown those designs to several airlines, which are reportedly interested in the plane, especially if it's powered by the Pratt & Whitney PW1000G geared turbofan. That engine -- which aims to reduce fuel burn and carbon emissions by double-digit percentages -- has already been selected by Bombardier and Mitsubishi for their respective jet programs.

FMI: www.khi.co.jp/index_e.html

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