EBACE Convention News

ATR outfits regional t-props for life in executive service

 - April 28, 2010, 7:18 AM

Most business aircraft users are trying to get away from airliners, so you might imagine that trying to market a model that has earned its reputation as a regional airline workhorse could be a hard sell–and even more so if the aircraft in question is turboprop-powered. But Avions de Transport Regional (ATR) doesn’t think so, arguing that its ATR 72 and 42 twin turboprops offer a winning combination of cabin space, lower operating costs and greater operational flexibility.

The ATR 72, which in airline service would normally seat up to 70 passengers, is now being offered with a reworked interior seating just 38. At the front of the cabin there can be six 40-inch-pitch seats forming a VIP lounge, and to the rear another 32 seats in standard 31-inch pitch.

The smaller ATR 42, which normally seats up to 50, is being offered in two configurations. The first has a forward VIP lounge with eight 40-inch-pitch seats and behind them 22 more seats at 30-inch pitch. The second configuration would have the same front cabin section, but just 11 seats to the rear with more legroom and a side-facing divan. The cabins of both aircraft offer generous headroom of 6 feet 3 inches.

ATR (Booth No. 1097) is offering executive versions both from the ATR 72 and 42 production line in Toulouse, France, and also as retrofits on used models. The cabin interiors are designed by ATR but manufactured by specialist completions house Burnet Interiors (Booth No. 429), which is based here in Geneva. The airframer does not publish prices for the VIP versions as these can vary significantly according to customer preferences for interior options.

There is no existing backlog of VIP versions of the ATR. However, the manufacturer has previously supplied eight ATR 42s and four ATR 72s to seven different operators who fly them in a variety of VIP and government transport roles. These carriers include Lao Airlines, Tarom of Romania, Air Gabon, Azerbaijan-based Silkway Airlines, Royal Air Thai, Cuba’s Aerogariota and the government flight department of French Polynesia. ATR sees a potential market for its VIP twin turboprops of 100 aircraft over the next 20 years.

The existing ATR 72 and 42 models are powered by Pratt & Whitney PW127 engines and are approved for 120-minute ETOPS performance. They are noise-rated at 80dB, which ATR claims is better than most business jets. ATR is currently flight-testing a new -600 version powered by new PW127M engines, which promise higher performance and more efficient operations.

In 2009 ATR booked orders for 40 new aircraft plus 17 options–sales figures that were almost unchanged over 2008. Half of all 2009 orders are for the newest -600 series and its backlog at the end of 2009 stood at 136 aircraft. ATR anticipates more than 50 deliveries and revenues of $1.4 billion this year.