Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., Japan's biggest heavy machinery maker, plans to independently develop a small passenger jet, a major Japanese newspaper said Thursday.

Mitsubishi has judged that it can make a passenger jet based on expertise that has been acquired to date as a subcontractor for Boeing Co. of the United States and other foreign makers, the mass-circulation Asahi said, quoting company sources it did not identify.

Wataru Ichikawa, a spokesman for Tokyo-based Mitsubishi Heavy, denied the report, saying that the company "has no such plans at all to make a passenger jet on our own."

He added: "Making a passenger jet is definitely not a project that can be handled by a single private company."

Japan last produced a passenger aircraft, a propeller plane with a seating capacity of about 60 people called the "YS-11" in 1960s and early 1970s.

The government helped finance the project and a consortium of private companies, including Mitsubishi Heavy, Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd. and others, manufactured it.

That project terminated in 1973 because it was unprofitable. A total of 182 planes were produced and some are still in use.