Mitsubishi Aircraft’s regional jet is on schedule for first flight next year.

The aircraft maker’s VP of sales and marketing Hitoshi Iwasa says the manufacture of sub-assemblies started in April and that final assembly of the first MRJ will commence “probably at the end of this year or beginning of next year.”

This will give Mitsubishi Aircraft sufficient time for first roll-out and first flight in 2012 as planned, notes Iwasa, adding that the manufacturer is confident it can have first flight soon after the roll-out ceremony.

Mitsubishi Aircraft’s first MRJ is the 90-seat MRJ90, although the airframer is also offering a 70-80-seat MRJ70 and is considering a 100-seat variant. All Nippon Airways is the launch customer for the MRJ90 with a firm order for 15 and U.S. operator Trans States Holdings has placed a firm order for 50 MRJs (Aviation Daily, Feb. 3).

Indonesian aircraft leasing firm Aero Nusantara Indonesia has also announced its intention to buy five MRJ90s, and Vietnam Airlines is contemplating an MRJ order.

According to a Vietnam Airlines spokesman, the airline may purchase small jet aircraft and is considering Bombardier’s CSeries and the MRJ. Industry executives say Mitsubishi Aircraft has a strong chance in Vietnam because Japan is a major donor to the country.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which has a factory outside Hanoi that makes parts for Boeing 737s, could also incentivize a purchase, add the executives.

Mitsubishi Aircraft is also hoping the MRJ will replace some of the Japanese military’s ageing NAMC YS-11 turboprops.