ATR Board Greenlights Short-runway ATR 42-600 Variant

 - October 9, 2019, 9:49 AM
The ATR 42-600S will feature a larger rudder and autobrake system to accommodate runways as short as 800 meters in length. (Image: ATR)

ATR will move ahead with the development of a short takeoff and landing version of the ATR 42-600 after its board of directors formally authorized the launch of the program. It expects certification of the ATR 42-600S in the second half of 2022 and first delivery immediately afterward, the Toulouse-based European turboprop manufacturer—a 50-50 joint venture between Airbus and Italy’s Leonardo—said Wednesday.

Plans for the ATR 42-600S surfaced at the 2017 Paris Air Show and ATR revealed at the Paris Air Show in June it had secured commitments for 17 of its STOL variant of the ATR 42-600, hoping to launch the program by year-end. While maintaining the anticipated timeline, it also managed to gain a further three commitments, though it remained quiet about the identity of the customers. Turboprop aircraft leasing specialist Elix Aviation Capital has signed a letter of intent for 10 examples and serves as the launch lessor; it expects deliveries of the aircraft to occur between 2022 and 2024. Air Tahiti has committed to becoming the launch operator. The Polynesian carrier will take two ATR 42-600Ss, leaving commitments for eight units undisclosed. In June, however, ATR said it had signed a memorandum of understanding with the Development Bank of Japan to pursue the project.

“Adding the ATR 42-600S to our family makes total sense and paves the way for the company’s future,” commented ATR CEO Stefano Bortoli. “There is a huge potential for 50-seater aircraft, and the ATR 42-600S could help airlines widen their horizons,” he added, pointing to the variant’s proposed takeoff and landing capabilities on runways as short as 800 meters (2,625 feet). Close to 500 airports worldwide have a runway whose length extends between 800 meters and 1,000 meters and could accept the ATR 42-600S. The standard ATR42-600 requires a runway length of 1,050 meters.

ATR plans to offer the STOL variant as a 50-passenger airplane; however, to use the STOL on an 800-meter runway in standard flight conditions—15 deg C airfield temperature, sea level, dry paved runway, and a route of 200 nm—loads might need to drop by as many as 10 passengers. Still, ATR described the ATR 42-600S as “the best-performing aircraft in this segment” and reported “a strong interest from airlines for a new 50-seater product capable of operating in more constrained conditions.”

The principal modifications for the 42-600S include the introduction of a larger rudder, which allows increased control of the aircraft at lower speeds, and an autobrake system to ensure that full braking power occurs immediately upon landing. The new variant will also be able to symmetrically deploy its spoilers to improve braking efficiency on landing, ATR noted.

As in the standard ATR 42 and ATR 72, Pratt & Whitney Canada PW127M turboprops will power the STOL variant, though pilots can select between the ATR 42 and 72 engine ratings, “meaning the aircraft can use increased power for performing STOL operations or elect to operate more efficiently with less power on longer runways,” the OEM said.