Hailing an exceptional last two years that have accounted for fully 20 percent of all the 1,250 ATR twin turboprop airliners sold to date, ATR North America sales and marketing vice president Mark Neely pointed out how evenly distributed the European airframer’s customers are geographically. “We don’t have spikes in particular areas of influence,” he told an RAA Convention press conference today.
But one country in which ATR very definitely would like to see a sales spike is the key U.S. market, which in recent history has come to be regarded as turboprop-averse. Neely believes that changes to scope clause airline labor rules in the U.S. that mainly stand to boost prospects for regional jet utilization could have a positive knock-on effect in creating openings for turboprop equipment. For instance, he claimed, airlines could save approximately $13 million in fuel bills just by switching from regional jets to ATR 72s on the Newark to Pittsburgh route alone. One part of the U.S. where ATR sales have recently spiked is Hawaii, where Island Air is a new ATR 72 operator and Hawaiian Airlines’ regional subsidiary Ohana has bought a pair of ATR 42s.
Leasing groups now account for about 20 percent of ATR’s 221-aircraft backlog, which is valued at $5.1 billion. Neely said this is because the finance community has grasped the economic sustainability that the turboprop models can bring to airlines facing high costs and squeezed margins. Next year, ATR expects to deliver 90 aircraft, of which around 10 percent will be its 50-seat ATR 42 model and the rest the 70-seat ATR 72-600.