Toulouse-based turboprop manufacturer ATR on Tuesday handed over its first-ever production freighter aircraft to launch customer Federal Express as part of a deal for 50 of the type signed in 2017. The contract consists of a firm order of 30 ATR 72-600Fs and an option to purchase up to 20 more.
FedEx expects to take delivery of six or possibly seven of the new freighter turboprops in 2021 and plans to add all 30 of the firm order over a five-year period, FedEx Express executive v-p and CEO Aviation Scot Struminger said during a digital media briefing.
The company’s first ATR 72-600F will go to ASL Airlines Ireland, where it will operate as part of the FedEx Express feeder fleet. Its second ATR 72-600F will come to the U.S., while the third, fourth, and fifth examples will serve FedEx’s Latin American regions.
“The ATR 72-600F was constructed with input from FedEx engineers every step of the way, so we’re proud and excited to finally take possession of this impressive aircraft,” said Struminger. The ATR 72-600F offers numerous advantages compared with FedEx's 40-strong fleet of ATRs converted from passenger configuration, he added. “We are getting a brand-new airplane with a digital cockpit, enhanced avionics, and enhanced takeoff performance. It is fully equipped with ADS-B, which are new requirements of the FAA and EASA. And we get this amazing large cargo door, allowing for carriage of bulk cargo and pallet services.”
According to ATR CEO Stefano Bortoli, the OEM in the past months has “definitely” witnessed a surge of interest in the ATR 72-600F as belly freighter capacity has reduced, particularly in regional markets, due to the Covid-19 impact on airlines. He also expressed confidence that ATR will secure “at least one” additional customer for the type next year.