* Order for 20 aircraft likely to be cancelled -Kyodo
* Loss would be setback for delayed regional jet project (Adds background)
TOKYO, Dec 15 (Reuters) - Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd’s chief executive said the group’s aircraft unit was likely to lose an order for its repeatedly delayed commercial jet, Kyodo news agency reported on Friday.
The order for 20 of the aircraft with an option for 20 more from Eastern Air Lines was “likely to be lost”, Chief Executive Shunichi Miyanaga said in an interview, according to the Kyodo report.
A Mitsubishi Heavy spokesman confirmed to Reuters that the comment was made, adding the order had not been cancelled at this time.
The loss of the order would be a blow to the Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) project which aims to build Japan’s first commercial aircraft in 50 years. The jet has been delayed five times and as a result has seen costs spiral and increased competition.
Miyanaga said the likely cancellation was not a result of the jet’s delayed development, Kyodo reported, with the first delivery of the jet pushed back to mid-2020 from 2013 originally. The likely cancellation is due to a change in the buyer’s policy, Kyodo cited Miyanaga as saying.
Mitsubishi Heavy’s aircraft unit has orders for 233 of the 90-seat aircraft, the company has said previously, and aims to sell more than 1,000 of the planes over two decades. (Reporting by Sam Nussey; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Christopher Cushing)