Papua New Guinea’s PNG Air signed for three ATR42-600S turboprops at the Singapore Airshow on February 11. ATR now has four firm orders for the short take-off and landing (STOL) version of the twin turboprop regional airliner, totaling 20 aircraft. In addition to the three PNG aircraft, ATR has orders for 10 from Elix International, two for Air Tahiti, and five for an undisclosed customer. The STOL variant is scheduled to receive certification in 2022, and deliveries will begin shortly thereafter.
Key features of the ATR42-600S compared to the baseline aircraft are: the rudder is 40 percent larger by area to give greater yaw control authority at low speeds; the flaps deploy further, to takeoff setting of 25 degrees; an autobrake system is fitted that applies the brakes on touchdown; the overwing spoilers can deploy symmetrically to provide additional aerodynamic braking; and the engine rating can be increased for improved takeoff performance.
PNG Air currently operates a fleet of ATR72s and Dash 8s on regional services in Papua New Guinea. The nation has 528 recognized landing strips, of which just 26 are paved and with sufficient length to operate regular airliners. Adopting the ATR42 STOL will allow PNG Air—which already routinely operates from the longer unpaved runways—to fly into many more of these strips. The airline’s CEO, Paul Abbot, suggested that the network could be increased by 10 to 15 percent with the new ATRs. A government initiative is seeking to extend the runways at many landing sites to the 900 to 1,000 meters required to safely operate the ATR42-600S.
ATR’s CEO Stefano Bortoli described the PNG Air deal as “a perfect match of a solid platform to demanding operations,” noting further that: “It’s about regional connectivity. It’s about connecting communities that would not otherwise be connected.”
Abbot explained that there are no road or shipping connections between many of the nation's rural communities and that aviation is the only means of connecting the residents with vital services such as healthcare and medical supplies, and with the means to improve local infrastructure and education.