Bumper Le Bourget expected by ATR

ATR says its firm and option orderbook for 2011 – currently standing at 28 firm and five options – will more than double by the end of the Paris Air Show in Le Bourget next week.

Speaking at a pre-show briefing in Paris, ATR CEO Filippo Bagnato reported that this year’s order and option intake for the period between January and the end of the show would outstrip the previous record of 53 which was achieved in 2007. “Never in the life of ATR have we had a year like this one,” he remarked. There will be a minimum of four customers announcing orders.

So far in 2011, the orders and options announced cover 15 firm aircraft for Lion Air (“And perhaps they will increase this at the air show,” Bagnato teased); Skywest/Virgin Australia with 8 firm and 5 options (“Our first major order in the Australian market.”); one 72-500 for Borajet; two for Israir and Malaysian Airlines’ firm order for two additional 72-500s to be flown by Firefly.

Bagnato then gave more clues about a busy time at the show. “We have some important announcements at Le Bourget. I can [flag up for] you an announcement in relation to a North American contract,” he commented. “Another customer, which may not even be announced at the show, is in southeast Asia [beyond the possibility of Lion Air mentioned above]. There will be some good news in Central America and maybe from Brazil.” Around 55% of the orders planned for announcement by the end of the show will be from new customers.

Bagnato also noted that since the last Paris Air Show in 2009, the company has added 30 new operators, taking its total to 175. The 1,000th sale has been achieved, delivery of which will be in the first half of 2012. “Also, today ATRs are flying in 94 countries. Soon though, we will be in 100 countries,” Bagnato remarked.

“The backlog of ATR at the end of Le Bourget will be beyond 200 aeroplanes, worth around $5 billion. Despite the fact that we are increasing the production rate from the end of this year, that is a backlog of three years,” he added.

On the production rate issue, Bagnato recalled that in January he confirmed that the company would deliver around 50 aircraft in 2011. “The reason I have not decided to increase the rate of production this year is that there was too much with the introduction of the new -600 models. But in 2012 we will deliver at least 70 aircraft,” he explained. “Clearly we are considering in 2013 and 2014 to do some more. [For those years], the minimum will be the same as 2012, but I am in the process of discussing and preparing the ground for a delivery plan which will require more aeroplanes. We have to harmonise the commercial need with the industrial need.” The production increase to 70 aircraft a year will generate a need for 1,500 more employees across the programme, with the majority, naturally, in Italy and France.

BRIC countries set to lead ATR sales
“The revised regional turboprop market forecast for the next 20 years is for 3,000-3,100 aircraft and today, we have 60% of this market, so the perspective for ATR is not bad,” according to the manufacturer’s CEO Filippo Bagnato.

“Allocating priorities [to the sales efforts], we have to look at the BRIC markets,” Bagnato continued. “I’ve just spent some time in Brazil, where today we have a fleet of 50 ATRs. But if I take into consideration what we signed last year and what we have ‘in the oven’, it is not a dream to believe that this number will be doubled very soon,” he forecast.

“In Russia, we have recently had a big order for 20 with UTair and have already started deliveries. We have also signed with another Siberian company [Taimyr Air Company which operates as NordStar Airlines].” Moving on to India, Bagnato noted that it is a market in which ATR is already very well placed, though further orders can be expected. “After a couple of years of suffering, traffic is once again beginning to ramp up,” he commented.

Beyond the BRIC nations, Central America has grown in importance as a market. “At the end of last year we got an order from Caribbean Airlines, which was a Bombardier operator,” said Bagnato. One of the announcement at Le Bourget is expected to come from a Central American country, he revealed.

“Then there is southeast Asia, which is a major area for customers. There is an installed fleet of more than 200 aeroplanes in the region.” Again he predicted more to come in the near future.

The bête-noire for ATR sales in recent years has been the USA, but a breakthrough was made with the Air Lease Corporation deal announced at the Farnborough Air Show last year. “Now, in the United States, after the period of jet-mania, I think that the cost of fuel means that they are beginning to re-analyse the turboprop. Again, something will happen in Le Bourget. The North American market, which for some time was closed to the turboprop, is now re-opened,” Bagnato declared.

Bernie Baldwin, editor, Low-Fare & Regional Airlines/LARAnews.net
Paris, France

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