The sole ATR 42-600 prototype successfully completed its maiden flight today in Toulouse, France, the Franco-Italian manufacturer announced this afternoon. Powered by a pair of Pratt & Whitney Canada PW127M engines, the aircraft took off at 3 p.m. local time and flew for two hours, marking the start of a flight-test campaign expected to last some 75 hours. During the flight, test pilots sought to validate engine performance and the functioning of the airplane’s new Thales avionics suite, which integrates the newest computer systems and software for navigational aids, flight-data recording, automatic piloting and communications. The pilots also tested hydraulic and electrical systems and propeller blade balancing.
The high degree of commonality between the ATR 72 and the ATR 42 allows the manufacturer to apply to the ATR 42-600 regime certain tests undertaken by the larger ATR 72-600, whose 150-hour flight campaign started last July 24. ATR expects both airplanes to enter service next year.
Launched in October 2007, the program hasn’t deviated from the development schedule planned for both aircraft types, according to ATR. So far the company has collected firm orders for five ATR 42-600s and 54 ATR 72-600s.