ATR benefits from high fuel costs

 - November 27, 2006, 4:50 AM

Sales have been brisk for regional turboprop aircraft manufacturer Avions de Transport Regional, which is here at Farnborough International exhibiting an ATR 42-500 in the livery of Air Madagascar on the static display. The aircraft features the Elegance cabin interior and an in-flight entertainment system.

Taiwan’s TransAsia Airways last month ordered two new ATR 72-500 turboprops, plus one option. The contract is valued at $53.7 million, including the option. The two firm ATR 72-500s will be delivered in 2007 in a 72-seat configuration. TransAsia already operates three ATR 72-200s and seven ATR 72-500s.

Since then the manufacturer has delivered one ATR 42-500 to Air Calédonie. It was the first in a three-aircraft, September 2005 contract, which also included two ATR 72-500s. The latter two will be delivered late this year and in 2007 to the Noumea-based airline.

During the first half of 2006, the EADS-Alenia joint venture received 47 firm orders and 25 options. The backlog now stands at 130 aircraft, French daily Les Echos wrote recently. The production rate will increase from 26 aircraft this year to 44 next year and about 55 aircraft in 2008. At the final assembly line in Toulouse, the workforce is increasing by 10 percent this year, CEO Filippo Bagnato told Aviation International News here.

The company’s revenues should reach $720 million this year and exceed $1 billion in 2007, Bagnato predicted recently. During an interview on Monday, he sounded confident that the forecast for a 1,000-aircraft market in ATR’s segment will translate into real business.

Meanwhile, ATR is talking to avionics manufacturers such as Honeywell, Thales and Rockwell Collins for an improved flight deck. The idea is to benefit from new technologies to reduce pilot workload. A multi-purpose computer could also help cut maintenance costs. In addition, an electronic flight bag could be introduced into ATR cockpits.

Future variants of the current Pratt & Whitney Canada PW127M engines could offer hot-and-high performance enhancements. Bagnato insisted that he sees no need for more speed. This would raise fuel burn, at a time when fuel cost is rocketing, he said.

Bagnato also wanted to emphasize the environmental benefit of turboprops. These benefits directly translate into money savings. ATR has worked out figures that compare two fleets of 70-seaters–one comprising 10 ATRs, the other made up of 10 unnamed jets. The result is 45,000 metric tons of fuel saved over a five-year period.

Moreover, for each ton of fuel burned, at least three tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) are emitted. As air transport will probably become part of the European CO2 trading scheme, these tons of fuel are poised to become even more valuable. One ton of CO2 currently trades at approximately #15 ($19).