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FARNBOROUGH 2014: New ATR CEO looks to continue order boom

More of the same and no complacency is the message from ATR’s new CEO, Patrick de Castelbajac, as he approaches his first major airshow.

As ATR waved farewell to previous CEO Filippo Bagnato in May, the company announced that it had an intake of more than 100 firm orders in the first four months of 2014. Not all of these have been disclosed and de Castelbajac does not expect all of them to be unveiled during the week of the air show.

Those sales of new ATR -600s represented over 80% of total orders for regional aircraft below 90-seats announced to that time.

In a pre-show briefing, de Castelbajac confirmed that ATR currently has a backlog of more than 320 aircraft (a record) and expects to move up to delivering 95 aircraft in 2015. “We should reach 100 in 2016, which that market can sustain it and moreover, we can deliver,” he remarked.

Market share in the first half of the year was close to 80% in the sub-90 seat category. “This is not really representative of where we are and I don’t believe we will be there at the end of the year,” de Castelbajac noted.

Noting the value of the ATR family in markets where there is a lower infrastructure requirement, the CEO believes Africa will be a market which will benefit from that attribute. Asked why Bombardier had been more successful recently with the Q400 in Africa, de Castelbajac responded, “There’s no reason for them to sell more aircraft there than us. We’ll really focus our attention there. I’m going there in the fall. We have a part to play there and intend to play it well.”

In China, de Castelbajac expects the market to open up. “It’s never simple. The tendency there has been towards “big is beautiful” and also we have to pay 25% tax to sell an aircraft. Plus there’s an indigenous turboprop competing. Many mid-size cities in China would benefit from ATRs. And again, there’s a low infrastructure requirement.

“Russia could be a fantastic market for ATR. There was an attempt by Bombardier to do a JV for a final assembly line in Russia. I know that the Russians are developing an original business and I believe they are looking at other partners too,” de Castelbajac commented.

“It’s good to be a leader, but no good if you don’t do anything about it,” the CEO continued. “We must not be complacent due to the market share. I don’t want us, a few years down the road, to find us losing market share. We intend to remain the leader.”

That comment inevitably led to the thorny topic of a 90-seater, the business case for which was left with the parent companies by de Castelbajac’s predecessor. “We need both investors aligned and Airbus does not consider it a priority currently. We have to make it a priority,” he argued.

“The current target is securing the ramp-up of production and implementing improvement plans for the existing products. Then I can return to Airbus and show it is time,” de Castelbajac added.

As for his own role, de Castelbajac admitted he had not always followed ATR closely as he was busy closing deals at Airbus. “But I can bring much from my previous careers – contracts and closing deals, after sales, supply chain and customer service experience,” he noted.

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

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