ATR Rides Wave of Turboprop Popularity as It Ponders Larger Model

 - January 19, 2012, 11:08 AM
ATR expects its new 42-600, due for certification this year, to draw particular interest among U.S. regional airlines flying smaller turboprops. (Photo: ATR)

Toulouse, France-based regional turboprop manufacturer ATR is pressing ahead with plans to increase its production rate progressively over the next three years while preparing to add a larger, 90-seat model to its product line, which now consists of the 50-seat ATR 42-600 and 74-seat ATR 72-600.

After rolling 54 aircraft off the production line last year, the company plans to manufacture 70 this year, 80 next year and 85 in 2014, while it projects its turnover to increase from $1.3 billion to $2 billion per year. It expects to propose the 90-seater model to its shareholders by the end of this year.

Last year saw ATR book firm orders for 157 aircraft (13 ATR 42s and 144 ATR 72s, plus a total of 79 options) from 13 clients worldwide, well ahead of its previous record year in 2007, when it collected orders for 80. Its backlog now stands at 236 aircraft, worth some $5 billion and representing approximately three years of production. The numbers take into consideration the removal from its books of 38 aircraft India’s Kingfisher would have taken before it missed delivery pre-payments, triggering effective order cancellation.

In December ATR confirmed that it would discontinue production of the older -500 models toward the end of this year and produce only the new -600 models, which feature a new Thales glass cockpit, enhanced Pratt & Whitney Canada powerplants and a new Armonia cabin with more baggage space.

Speaking at a January 18 press conference in Paris, ATR CEO Filippo Bagnato said that ATR 72-600s had completed more than 3,000 flights since entering service with Royal Air Maroc last August, achieving a dispatch reliability rate of 99.7 percent.

He highlighted that in the market for 50- to 90-seat aircraft, turboprops now account for some 85 percent of orders, of which ATR had achieved a 70 percent market share. “Turboprops, and particularly ATRs, appear more and more to be the right solution for regional aviation,” he said, while adding that introduction of its planned 90-seater would not spell an end to its smaller models because they would account for two-thirds of a market ATR estimates at some 3,000 aircraft over the next 20 years.