Not many turboprops fly in the Gulf region, a market dominated by large hub-and-spoke carriers operating widebody airliners, but Franco-Italian turboprop maker ATR (Stand 1340) considers the Dubai Airshow a suitable venue to reveal new orders and significant improvements to the engines that power the ATR 42-600 and its larger sibling, the ATR 72-600. The company plans to replace the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW127M engines in those models with the new PW127XT series, which the company debuted at the Dubai Airshow on Monday.
ATR’s decision to partner with Pratt & Whitney Canada (P&WC) on the new engine was taken in 2018, ATR CEO Stefano Bortoli told AIN. Calling the new engine “a step-change in sustainability and airline economics,” Bortoli pledged that ATR “is determined to continue setting the pace of innovation within the regional market segment.”
The XT—which stands for extended time-on-wing—allows a 20 percent reduction in maintenance costs compared with the PW127M, according to ATR. The PW127XT requires only two scheduled engine overhauls in 10 years compared to three for the PW127M. The 40 percent extension of the engine maintenance interval, also known as time-on-wing, means the overhaul interval will increase from 14,000 to 20,000 flight hours. The companies also expect the XT to consume 3 percent less fuel than the M series burns, further extending the 40 percent fuel-burn advantage ATR holds over regional jets in the same seat category, according to P&WC. “We are pleased to launch this exciting new PW127XT engine with ATR,” said P&WC president Maria Della Posta. “Optimized for the ATR 42/72 aircraft family, it will deliver a significant improvement in operating costs, extending the already impressive operating economics and sustainability of this regional turboprop.”
The PW127XT will be available in summer 2022 and will become the standard engine for all the ATR aircraft, including the ATR42-600S, the STOL variant now under development, the Toulouse-based ariframer said.
The XT’s launch customer, Air Corsica, ordered five ATR 72-600s powered by the new engines. ATR expects deliveries to start in November 2022. “This shows the value of the engine and that operators are happy with what it offers. It is in line with our policy of continuous product development, both to reduce the operating costs for our client and further improve the sustainability of our product. The new engine will support our journey towards the deployment of 100 percent sustainable aviation fuel,” he said.
Currently, all ATR aircraft have earned certification to fly with a 50/50 blend, and the company aims to gain certification for 100 percent SAF usage by 2025.
Bortoli remained tight-lipped on the additional price tag of the new engine, but the existence of early launch customers for the engine “clearly shows that there is a very persuasive business case,” he said. “The maintenance cost savings would outweigh any increase in cost of this engine.”
Formed in November 1981 when Aerospatiale (now Airbus) and Aeritalia (now Leonardo) merged their two separate, but similar, regional aircraft designs into a single project, ATR this month celebrates its 40th anniversary. “ATR reached two other milestones: 1,800 aircraft were sold and 1,600 delivered to about 200 operators in nearly 100 countries since the beginning the program,” noted vice-president of marketing Zuzana Hrnkova. The ATRs rank as the best-selling regional aircraft since 2010 in the 50- to 90-seat market, collecting 76 percent of all turboprop sales and 38 percent of all regional aircraft firm orders, she added. The ATR’s largest market resides in Asia-Pacific, which accounts for a 37 percent share of the total fleet; Europe accounts for a 30 percent share; the Americas 23 percent; and Africa and Middle East 10 percent.
“We are incredibly proud of what we achieved so far,” stated Bortoli. Throughout its history, ATR has followed the same strategy of continuous development from the first-generation ATR 42 and ATR 72 to the -600 series and growing the two models into a “larger family” with the purpose-built freighter ATR 62-600F and the shorter-runway ATR 42-600S. Launched in October 2019, that variant can take off and land on runways as short as 800 meters with 40 passengers on board in standard flight conditions. The ATR 42-600S has suffered a slight certification delay because the company had to adjust the development schedule due to Covid-19 constraints. It now expects certification in 2024, according to Hrnkova.