ATR keeps head above water

 - November 30, 2007, 11:17 AM

Avions de Transport Régional (ATR), the Franco-Italian turboprop aircraft manufacturer, last year just managed to keep its head above water despite the troubles affecting world aviation, due largely to a leap in its sales of second-hand aircraft. But it expects both to deliver and sell more new ATRs this year while maintaining its level of used airplane placements.

The Toulouse, France-based company last year took orders for 16 aircraft, six of which it completed in the last few days of the year. The company logged sales of 14 ATR 72-500s–three each to Bangkok Airways and Alitalia Express, two to Air New Zealand, one to Air Tahiti and five to an undisclosed airline–and two ATR 42-500s, one each to Eurolot of Poland and the French Polynesian government. It also sold 53 used aircraft. In 2001, ATR sold 25 new airplanes and 23 pre-owned. The 48-seat ATR 42 and 66-seat ATR 72–which entered service in 1995 and 1997, respectively–are powered by Pratt & Whitney Canada PW127 engines.

ATR last year delivered 19 aircraft–14 ATR 72-500s and five ATR 42-500s–to a total of 11 airlines, one aircraft fewer than in 2001. Three ATR 72s were delivered to Khalifa Airways of Algeria; two each to Vietnam Airlines, Bangkok Airways and Alitalia Express; and one each to Air Tahiti, Iran Aseman, Air Dolomiti of Italy, Air Mauritius and Air New Zealand. Four ATR 42s were delivered to Aerogaviota of Cuba and one to Eurolot of Poland.

Jean-Michel Léonard, ATR president and CEO, said that despite a difficult year for air transport, ATR had maintained its 2002 delivery target, no airplanes had been canceled or delayed and the manufacturer had remained “marginally profitable.” Details of ATR’s financial results will be released by EADS, but Léonard confirmed revenues will be “stable compared to 2001.” He said that ATR’s performance should be seen in the context of an “increasingly tight turboprop market when only 22 units were sold worldwide in 2002, 44 percent down in a year that Bombardier managed orders for only six Dash 8s.” Léonard said ATR “balances its books” by delivering just under 18 units a year and expected to sell between 20 and 25 new aircraft this year. Deliveries of new airplanes should increase to 20, added Léonard, while used-aircraft delivery rates continue at last year’s pace. Final assembly line cycles would go from three to two months beginning this month.

The second-hand market has kept ATR in the black. Last year it delivered 35 airplanes, while placing another 45 used ATR 42s and eight ATR 72s. ATR’s used-aircraft prospects look likely to improve further with FedEx’s decision to acquire eight ATR 42-320s for its FedEx Express feeder network, the first of which it received in January. Although FedEx acquired the airplanes directly from Continental Airlines, the package-delivery giant has expressed the need for about 100 more turboprops over the next 10 years to replace its aging Fokker F-27s.