ATR Rides Wave of Turboprop Popularity as it Ponders Larger Model

 - March 4, 2012, 4:40 AM
ATR CEO Filippo Bagnato - Photo: Ian Sheppard

Toulouse, France-based regional turboprop manufacturer ATR is pressing ahead with plans to increase its production rate progressively over the next three years while preparing to add a larger, 90-seat model to its product line, which now consists of the 50-seat ATR 42-600 and 74-seat ATR 72-600.

After rolling 54 aircraft off the production line last year, the company plans to manufacture 70 this year, 80 next year and 85 in 2014, while it projects its annual revenue will increase from $1.3 billion to $2 billion. It expects to propose the 90-seater model to its shareholders by year-end.

Last year saw ATR book firm orders for 157 aircraft (13 ATR 42s and 144 ATR 72s, plus a total of 79 options) from 13 clients worldwide, well ahead of its previous record year in 2007, when it collected orders for 80. Its backlog now stands at 236 aircraft, worth some $5 billion and representing approximately three years of production. The numbers take into consideration the removal from its books of 38 aircraft India’s Kingfisher would have taken before it missed delivery pre-payments, triggering effective order cancellation.

In December it confirmed that it would discontinue production of the older -500 models toward the end of this year and produce only the new -600 models, which feature new Thales glass cockpit, enhanced Pratt & Whitney Canada powerplants and a new Armonia cabin with more baggage space.

Speaking at a January 18 press conference in Paris, ATR CEO Filippo Bagnato said that ATR 72-600s had completed more than 3,000 flights since entering service with Royal Air Maroc last August, achieving 99.7-percent dispatch-rate reliability.

He noted that in the market for 50- to 90-seat aircraft, turboprops now account for some 85 percent of orders, of which ATR had achieved a 70-percent market share. “Turboprops, and particularly ATRs, appear more and more to be the right solution for regional aviation,” he said, while adding that introduction of its planned 90-seater would not spell an end to its smaller models, as they would account for two-thirds of a market ATR estimates at some 3,000 aircraft over the next 20 years.

Bagnato also noted that ATR’s order total includes deals from four unidentified customers, covering 41 aircraft. Three hail from the Asia-Pacific region, a company spokesman told AIN, while adding that ATR hopes to reveal details of two or three of the orders at this month’s Singapore Air Show. There is one large and significant order, said ATR, plus two smaller contracts in the region.

ATR plans to hold a ceremony in Toulouse on May 3 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 prove the ideal aircraft to replace the large number of aging smaller turboprops in the U.S. “I am reasonably confident that the ATR 42 can be a good answer, as there is a tendency toward larger aircraft,” said Bagnato, adding that some 1,400 small turboprops need replacement in the U.S. over the next few years. ATR expects to deliver the first ATR 42-600 in August.

Bagnato also 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.