Hailing an exceptional last two years that have accounted for fully 20 percent of all the 1,250 ATR twin turboprop airliners sold to date, ATR North America sales and marketing vice president Mark Neely pointed out how evenly distributed the European airframer’s customers are geographically.
Irish carrier Aer Arann took delivery of its first ATR 72-600 aircraft last Friday. The May 3 delivery marked the first of eight of the new -600 model that the airline has ordered to replace its existing fleet of ATR72-200s and smaller ATR42-300s.
Despite the difficulty ATR has encountered in penetrating the U.S. turboprop market, company CEO Filippo Bagnato continues to express optimism that the Franco-Italian partnership will experience a resurgence in what perhaps represents its final frontier of a sort. Now controlling some 60 percent of the market for 50- to 90-seat airplanes based on unit sales backlogs, the last Western maker of 50-seat-category turboprops sees itself as a potential lifeline for small U.S. cities and communities that can no longer support the services of regional jets of any size.
Although an RFP has yet to be issued, Alenia says it is delighted by the announcement of Malaysian defense minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi at LIMA 2013 that a Maritime Patrol System (MPS) is now the main acquisition priority for that country’s armed forces. The Italians believe the ATR 72MP would be a “natural choice.” The Malaysian requirement is estimated at between six and 12 aircraft.
Hawaii’s Island Air closed the sale of the airline in late February to a newly formed holding company owned by the billionaire co-founder and CEO of Oracle, Larry Ellison. Island Air said it plans no staff changes and will continue its operations as usual while it maps out routes, airplane acquisitions and services.
Mumbai-based Jet Airways last month announced the planned induction of five leased ATR 72-600s into its fleet. Scheduled to launch service with the first of the new 68-seat turboprops by the end of last year, Jet Airways said it expects to accept all five Gecas-sourced airplanes by the end of this March. The airline’s domestic expansion strategy centers on serving more so-called Tier II and Tier III destinations, according to Jet Airways COO Sudheer Raghavan.
ATR announced more than $600 million worth of firm orders at the show yesterday, led by an eight-unit deal with Taiwan’s TransAsia for ATR 72-600s. Meanwhile, the Franco-Italian manufacturer logged a separate pair of orders, each for two ATR 72-600s, from Air Lease Corporation and Lao Airlines.
ATR’s 50-seat 42-600 turboprop was certificated by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) late last month, bringing to fruition a test campaign that saw the larger, 70-seat ATR 72-600 gain certification in May last year. The aircraft have been updated with glass cockpits and modern avionics systems along with other refinements, including the Armonia cabin designed by Italian car designer Giugiaro.
The 46-seat ATR 42-600 regional turboprop received EASA certification late last month, ending a 125-hour flight-test program that began on April 5, 2010, using a single prototype. The smaller of a pair of updated turboprop models introduced by ATR over the past 13 months, the ATR 42-600 drew on testing results from earlier trials on its more popular, 68-seat sibling–the ATR 72-600, which gained its certification in May 2011.
Anyone doubting the staying power of turboprop aircraft in the regional airline sector probably should have visited Toulouse on May 3 to see ATR delivering the 1,000th example of its twin turboprop series.