Phoenix-based Mesa Air Group signed an MOU with Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp. (MITAC) Sept. 5 to enter negotiations to buy 100 SpaceJet M100 aircraft.

The new agreement, which targets 50 firm orders and purchase rights for an additional 50 aircraft, was signed during the Regional Airline Association (RAA) annual convention Sept. 5 in Nashville, Tennessee.

“As we developed the Mitsubishi SpaceJet family, we knew we had changed the way that passengers and airlines will think about regional travel,” MITAC president Hisakazu Mizutani said in a statement. “Mesa Airlines’ selection of the SpaceJet M100 confirms that our aircraft fulfills current and future needs in this industry, and that airlines are ready to move our discussions forward.”

Mitsubishi introduced the SpaceJet M100 at the Paris Air Show in June, part of a major shake-up of its regional jet strategy. The company bills the new 76-seat M100—the rebranded and redesigned successor to the former MRJ70—as the only clean sheet design that will operate under current scope clause restrictions in the US.

“The US mainline carriers are looking for an aircraft that will allow them to provide a consistent, premium passenger experience from their regional to their long-haul fleets,” Mesa Air Group chairman and CEO Jonathan Ornstein said. “With its large cabin, comfort, new technology and low operating costs, the Mitsubishi SpaceJet M100 can deliver this premium experience within US scope clause.”

Mesa expects to use the M100 fleet in its capacity purchase agreements with major US airlines. The MOU would see deliveries begin in 2024.

“One of the attractions of this airplane, is we think both the passenger acceptance and the economics create a lot of opportunity,” Mesa EVP and COO Brad Rich told reporters. “We expect that it will serve as a combination of new business and replacement of our current fleet, and that’s one of the things that attracts us to the airplane. It can do both.”

The smallest member of the SpaceJet family, the first deliveries of the M100 are expected to commence in 2024. The larger M90—the former MRJ90—is on pace to be certified by Japanese regulators and enter service with launch customer All Nippon Airways next year.

Ben Goldstein, ben.goldstein@aviationweek.com