Last year saw reasonably brisk activity in the regional turboprop business, as the Western world’s remaining players scrambled to hold their positions during a period of continuing sluggishness in the air-transport sector.
Siberian regional airline UTair has selected the Franco-Italian ATR 42 as its primary growth platform in the first-ever open tender for regional turboprops held by a Russian airline. UTair, ATR and Irish leasing company Magellan Air signed the respective letters of intent for five used ATR 42-300s on August 5, some three weeks before the parties expected to sign a firm contract.
ATR’s sales momentum didn’t pause for the turn of the calendar as the Franco-Italian turboprop maker landed two more contracts for a total of eight turboprops before the ink had dried on last year’s financial reports. Canarian Navigation and Aerial Services, a company operating from Spain’s Canary Islands, announced a $36 million contract for two new ATR 72-500s for delivery this year following an agreement for four made last September.
Life for Fairchild Metro and Merlin owners is looking up. Maintenance, repair and overhaul options for the airplanes have now expanded to include Springfield, Mo.-based Worldwide Aircraft Services, which M7 Aerospace bought last year. According to Jim McClean, president and general manager, the company has a solid history upon which it has built the new service.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) listed it as merely a serious incident but considered it significant enough to issue a full report. The incident involved the loss of control a Saab 340 experienced when it encountered icing. There were no injuries and no damage to the aircraft, but the pilots did not recover from the loss of control until the aircraft was only 112 feet above the ground.
Denmark’s Cimber Aviation Group has won a contract with Avions de Transport Regional to perform E Class cargo conversions for the ATR 72. Already an ATR 42 cargo converter, Cimber (Hall 3 Stand F1) will convert its first ATR 72 for Ireland’s Air Contractors. The Irish air freight company has added seven ATRs to its now nine-strong fleet over the past year.
Avions de Transport Regional yesterday landed the first pair of three orders it plans to announce this week at the show, when Finnish regional airline Finncomm signed for eight 48-seat ATR 42-500s and New Caledonia’s Air Caledonie inked a deal for a still undefined mix of three ATR 42-500s and ATR 72-500s.
Corsica’s CCM Airlines yesterday placed an order for six new ATR 72-500 regional twin turboprops to replace its aging fleet of ATR 72-200s. The $100 million deal further solidifies a partnership between CCM Airlines and Air France-KLM to operate flights from the French island’s four airports to Marseille, Nice and Lyon.
The so-called regional jet revolution has in the minds of many rendered turboprops a quaint throwback to the days of “commuter” airlines. But this year’s spate of big orders for new turboprops has turned conventional wisdom on its ear, giving the last two Western builders of prop-driven airliners a renewed sense of vitality.
Here at the Dubai 2005 show today, India’s Kingfisher Airlines is expected to order 20 ATR 72-500s, and to take options on an additional 15 of the 68-seat twin turboprop. The ATR 72s are to be delivered during a three-year period beginning next March and will be used to serve regional routes on the subcontinent.