Avions de Transport Régional (ATR) CEO Stéphane Mayer said the company remains on track to deliver more than 60 new airplanes this year after nearly doubling capacity of the final assembly line at its factory in Toulouse, France.
In the first half of this year, ATR received orders for eight airplanes, two of them ATR 42-500 twin-turboprops for French and Italian carriers and the other six the larger ATR 72-500 twin. Two of those will go to Lonrho Air in Africa, one apiece to Air Tahiti and Lao Airlines, and two to an undisclosed buyer.
The French-Italian manufacturer’s order backlog has grown to 181 airplanes, up from a capacity excess of 170 airplanes reported at this time last year. Mayer noted that the backlog has been growing despite a five-fold increase in production capacity ATR has achieved in the last three years.
While conceding that a flagging economy and rising fuel prices are putting unprecedented pressure on airlines, Mayer said the long-term growth potential in the regional turboprop market remains strong. “There is an expected demand for 2,900 turboprops in the next 20 years and an estimated passenger traffic growth rate of 8 percent per year,” he said. “The regional aircraft market is a growing market.”
So far this year ATR has delivered 31 airplanes, according to figures available through the end of last month. Before the end of the year the company hopes to roll out its 1,000th airplane, a milestone accompanied by annual revenue that is expected to surpass $1.3 billion.
Mayer said development work continues on new versions of the ATR 42 and 72, to be known as the -600 series. Due for introduction in the second half of 2010, the new models will feature modern glass avionics, more powerful Pratt & Whitney PW127M engines, and greater payload and performance capabilities. Certified in January, the new engines have already been added to the production line in some -500 series airplanes, Mayer noted.
The Thales integrated avionics will include five 6- by 8-inch LCD color displays including two primary flight displays, two multifunction displays and one engine systems and warning display. The ATR 600 series will be capable of flying Category IIIa (50-foot decision height) and required navigation performance (RNP) precision instrument approaches. Mayer said engineers recently installed the glass suite in the ATR 72-600 prototype.
Mayer has also said the company is considering an entirely new aircraft family that would incorporate the capabilities of the ATR 72-600 with lower emissions, better comfort and improved operating economics. He confirmed the manufacturer is studying a larger turboprop, probably with seating capacity for between 90 and 100 passengers, but said it would not be a stretch of the ATR 72-600.