The sole ATR 42-600 prototype flew for the first time on March 4 from Toulouse, France, marking the start of an abbreviated flight-test campaign expected to last just 75 hours. Powered by a pair of Pratt & Whitney Canada PW127M engines, the aircraft took off at 3 p.m. local time and flew for two hours. The crew undertook tests to validate engine performance and the functioning of the airplane’s new Thales avionics suite, which integrates the newest computer systems and software for navigational aids, flight data recording, automatic piloting and communications. The pilots also tested hydraulic and electrical systems and propeller blade balancing.
The high degree of commonality between the ATR 72 and ATR 42 allows the manufacturer to apply to the ATR 42-600 regime certain tests performed by the larger ATR 72-600, whose 150-hour flight campaign started last July 24. Although Guadelupe-based Air Caraibes placed the launch order for the ATR 72-600, plans call for Air Tahiti to take the first airplane in the second quarter of next year. Morocco’s Royal Air Maroc expects to take delivery of the first ATR 42-600 during next year’s fourth quarter.
Launched in October 2007, the program hasn’t deviated from the development schedule planned for both aircraft types, according to ATR. So far the company has collected firm orders for five ATR 42-600s and 54 ATR 72-600s.