ATR Still Awaits 90-seater Nod as Orders, Deliveries Proliferate

 - January 23, 2014, 1:08 PM
ATR 72-600s accounted for 67 of the 74 airplanes delivered by the turboprop maker last year. (Photo: ATR)

Regional turboprop manufacturer ATR saw orders and deliveries grow again last year, reaching record levels and steady profitability, but it has not convinced shareholders Airbus Group and Finmeccanica to launch a new aircraft.

The 90-seat turboprop project remains in limbo as ATR awaits approval to move ahead with a commercial launch. Minimizing operating cost per seat accounts for the main design driver, requiring a lightweight, efficient and, above all, simple aircraft, according to ATR CEO Filippo Bagnato. “Such a simple concept, with simple systems, is difficult to design,” he told AIN. The 90-seater continues to languish in the “feasibility-definition” phase.

ATR issued a formal proposal, including a business case study, to the Airbus Group and Finmeccanica in 2012, Bagnato said. Airbus, in particular, has shown reluctance to fund the launch of a 90-seater. The French press recently quoted CEO Fabrice Brégier expressing disagreement with “the eagerness of some people.”

Bagnato hinted that the shareholders’ priority lay with solving current production “issues.” He also suggested today’s consortium structure should change to that of a full-fledged company. “We would be working as a normal industrial entity,” he said. This would not necessarily free the executive team to submit a new product launch for approval but, at least, make everyday life easier. “Under the current structure, we need approval for everything,” an ATR spokesperson said.

ATR delivered a record 74 aircraft (seven ATR 42s and 67 ATR 72s) last year. Meanwhile, ATR’s salespeople inked firm orders for 10 ATR 42-600s and 79 ATR 72-600s. Lessors accounted for 70 percent of firm orders. For 2013, ATR claims the top spot in numbers of deliveries of regional aircraft seating between 50 and 90 seats (including jets), with a 48-percent market share.

Thanks to the brisk sales, the backlog remains stable, at 221 aircraft, as of December 31.

The financial performance continues on a positive trend, too, as revenues totaled $1.63 billion. The profit margin remains steady, at close to 9 percent. Bagnato predicted revenues will eventually reach $2 billion.

Despite the record, deliveries did not meet the plan for 80. Bagnato cited bottlenecks involving aerostructure suppliers. He evidently plans on solving the problems swiftly, however, as he sees production increasing to “a minimum 80” this year and “beyond 90” in 2015.