Airlines from the Asia Pacific region played a big part in the sales success enjoyed last year by European airframer ATR (Booth E01), with operators such as Wings Air of Indonesia, Malaysia’s Firefly and Skywest Airlines of Australia among its client list. ATR believes there is more to come and this week’s Singapore Airshow could well see a further 40 or so orders and commitments announced from this part of the world.
At the Toulouse, France-based group’s annual press conference in Paris last month, CEO Filippo Bagnato said the company is pressing ahead with plans to increase its production rate over the next three years. He also confirmed that ATR is preparing to add a larger, 90-seat member of its twin turboprop to its product family, which currently consists of the 50-seat ATR 42-600 and 74-seat ATR 72-600.
After rolling 54 aircraft off the production line in 2011, the company is aiming to manufacture 70 in 2012, 80 in 2013 and 85 in 201, while its revenues are projected to increase from $1.3 billion to $2 billion per annum. It expects to propose the 90-seater model to its shareholders (EADS and Alenia) by the end of 2012 in a bid to respond to customer interest.
Last year saw ATR book a record-breaking 157 firm orders for its aircraft (13 Model 42s and 144 Model 72s, plus a total of 79 options) from 13 clients worldwide, well ahead of its previous record year in 2007 when it received orders for 80 aircraft. Its backlog as of mid-January stood at 236 aircraft, worth some $5 billion and representing around three years of production. This is after removing the 38 aircraft India’s Kingfisher Airlines would have taken before it missed delivery prepayments, triggering effective order cancellation.
In December ATR confirmed that it will discontinue production of the older -500 models toward the end of 2012 and produce only the new -600 version. This features a new Thales glass cockpit, enhanced Pratt & Whitney Canada powerplants and a new Armonia cabin to optimize baggage space.
According to Bagnato, the new ATR 72-600s have already made more than 3,000 flights since entering service with Royal Air Maroc last August, achieving a 99.7-percent dispatch reliability rate. The other airlines that are already operating the type are Azul and Trip of South America, and Caribbean Airlines. Further deliveries are imminent to both of the last two operators, and also to Wings Air in Indonesia.
In Australia, Skywest is due to add nine ATR 72-600s to its fleet after Singapore-based lessor Aviation Plc ordered a further five aircraft in December (adding to four ordered earlier). Skywest operates routes for Virgin Australia and already has four ATR 72-500s in its fleet, with the first -600 due to join them later this year.
According to John Moore, ATR’s head of sales, Asia is the “number-one market for growth and about half our orders have been from the Asia Pacific region over the past four to five years.” He said Brazil and Russia have also seen good growth.
“There is a large base of operators already and good infrastructure in the region,” he commented. “We have a customer in just about every country, and our product is very well suited, for example, to the challenging airfields. Wings [Indonesia] is a good example, with high frequencies, and there are lots of underdeveloped regional routes in the area, where there is no or very little by way of air services.” He observed that these regional airline markets are “nowhere near saturation.”
During the Paris briefing, Bagnato highlighted the fact that in the market for 50- to 90-seat aircraft, turboprops now represent some 85 percent of orders and he claimed that, of these, ATR has achieved a 70 percent market share. “Turboprops, and particularly ATRs, appear more and more to be the right solution for regional aviation,” he said, adding that its planned 90-seater would not mean its smaller models would disappear. The company anticipates that these will always account for two thirds of a market it estimates at some 3,000 aircraft over the next 20 years.
Bagnato also revealed that its orders total includes four orders that have not yet been disclosed, covering 41 aircraft. Three of the customers are in the Asia Pacific region and it is these prospective deals that ATR might be able to announce before the end of the show.
On May 3 ATR will hold a ceremony in Toulouse to mark the delivery of its 1,000th aircraft, while another milestone this year will come with the anticipated certification of the ATR 42-600, which Bagnato said should be the ideal aircraft to replace the large number of aging smaller turboprops in the US. “I am reasonably confident that the ATR 42 can be a good answer, as there is a tendency toward larger aircraft,” said Bagnato. He added that some 1,400 small turboprops are to be replaced in the U.S. over the next few years. Delivery of the first ATR 42-600 is expected to take place in August.
The manufacturer also has revealed new list prices for its current models: $19.5 million for the ATR 42-600 and $23.4 million for the ATR 72-600. Bagnato said his ambition for 2012 is “to ideally reach the end of the year with at least the same backlog as today; if we do that I will be reasonably satisfied.