ATR Continues Surge

 - February 25, 2011, 7:16 AM

ATR announced a pair of big commercial deals involving its regional turboprops this week, building on an exceptional showing in 2010 that saw ATR’s management lay plans to raise production from just more than 50 airplanes to 70 by 2012.

Just today the Franco-Italian manufacturer said that Indonesia’s Lion Air and its regional subsidiary, Wings Air, signed an “operational contract” for the purchase of 15 ATR 72-500s. The order represents a conversion of options taken in 2009, when Lion Air placed its first firm order for 15 of the 72-seat turboprops. Today’s deal raises the number of ATR 72-500s on order from the airline to 30, eventually making Wings Air ATR’s largest customer in Southeast Asia.

So far operating 10 of the 30 turboprops on order, Wings Air launched ATR operations in January last year. Since then the airline has developed its own regional network across Indonesia while feeding Lion Air’s more extensive Boeing 737-900ER operation. With the introduction of new ATRs in the “coming months,” Wings Air plans to further develop new routes to and from Sumatra, Sulawesi and Java, and connect big cities such as Surabaya and Denpasar.

The Lion Air order comes just days after Australia’s Virgin Blue announced it would introduce up to 18 ATR 72s into its network as part of a recently signed alliance with Western Australian regional Skywest Airlines. Skywest plans to lease the airplanes from a specialist leasing company Aviation PLC for an initial term of 10 years, then operate them for Virgin Blue under a wet-lease agreement in which it will supply technical and cabin crew and source the maintenance provider of the fleet. Meanwhile, the alliance will see both airlines code share on a number of sectors throughout Australia. The Perth-based regional airline now operates Fokker 100s and Fokker 50s. 

Virgin Blue Group CEO John Borghetti said the first four of the 68-seat aircraft would enter its network starting in the middle of this year, followed by another four next year.

“The ATR will form the foundation of our regional network plans, with the first six ATRs replacing our current Embraer E170 fleet and the additional aircraft flying to new regional destinations,” he said. According to ATR, the ATR 72 burns between 40 and 45 percent less fuel than the Embraer E170 on “typical” regional routes.