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Airlines have high hopes for the next generation of regional jets, which are larger and promise to have much lower unit costs than earlier and smaller models. But U.S. carriers have to face the question of whether their pilots will actually allow them to fly some of these aircraft types.
Mitsubishi Aircraft and Embraer face a potentially hefty problem in the U.S. market with the new regional jets they are developing: a maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) that could prevent regional carriers from operating the jets for their major airline partners.
To boost—and protect—their sales in the U.S., manufacturers will have to either trim the weight, change the certificated weight for the U.S. market or hope for a change in pilots' union collective bargaining agreements.
Almost all of the union contracts with the major U.S. carriers—with Alaska Airlines being one notable exception—forbid them from outsourcing flying to any aircraft certificated in the U.S. with an MTOW exceeding 86,000 lb. But the specifications Embraer just unveiled for its E175-E2 show an MTOW of 97,731 lb. Mitsubishi Aircraft's specifications for the MRJ90 indicate an MTOW of 87,303 lb. for the standard model, 90,378 lb. for the extended range and 94,358 lb. for the long range, and its MR70LR is about 2,600 lb. over the contractual maximum.