ATR confident it can weather the storm

 - February 27, 2009, 10:44 AM

ATR took in record revenues of $1.3 billion in 2008 and says that despite the financial crisis it will top that figure this year. John Moore, the company’s senior vice president commercial, told AIN that when Toulouse, France-based ATR made predictions at the beginning of last year, the 2009 market conditions were “not expected by anybody.”

Although ATR last year recorded 13 cancellations in a 169-aircraft backlog, it won net orders for 42 new aircraft– 23 from Asia/Pacific carriers–and options on 14 more. ATR maintains what Moore sees as a solid order book and plans to deliver 60 new aircraft this year, up from 55 last year, 44 in 2007 and 24 in 2006. ATR aims to collect $1.4 billion in revenues this year.

Moore said gloomy economic prospects haven’t translated into any precipitous decline in interest in ATRs, notwithstanding the fact that the airframer had earlier planned to deliver 72 airplanes this year and curtailed its ambitions somewhat. More than 60 percent of last year’s orders came from ATR operators seeking to expand and upgrade their fleets to serve regional markets less vulnerable to the effects of the global economic crisis than long-haul networks.

“The process is slowing but there is still a need in the market,” said Moore. “I don’t have a crystal ball but believe we will perform reasonably this year.”

The company’s revised order book shows 39 of the new -600 series aircraft on firm order, 23 of which Kingfisher airlines converted from orders for -500s. The present backlog of 169 aircraft ensures at least two-and-a-half-years’ production, said Moore, who added that ATR expects to maintain its 860-strong workforce and continue production rates of six aircraft per month.

Meanwhile, the “normal, but slower process” of evaluation continues for a 90- to 100-seat ATR. The company expects no decision this year, even as talks progress with Pratt & Whitney Canada and “several obvious players in the regional engine market,” according to Moore.