First ATR 72-500 taken by Skywest for Virgin Australia

Australian regional Skywest Airlines has taken delivery of its first ATR 72-500, which will operate on behalf of Virgin Australia, as part of a 10-year agreement to create a regional network for Virgin Australia.

This first delivery, which is also the first of the type in Australia, comes from a deal for four ATR 72-500s and four ATR 72-600s, plus five options, signed earlier this year between ATR and the leasing company Avation. The remaining three ATR 72-500s will be delivered this year, while the four ATR 72-600s will enter into service in 2012. All these aircraft will wear the new white and red livery of Virgin Australia.

Initially, the new ATR fleet will operate on Australia’s east coast, including new regional routes from Brisbane to Gladstone and Brisbane to Port Macquarie. This network will expand progressively in 2011 and 2012 with the addition of new destinations. The ATR 72s, which will progressively replace Virgin Australia’s Embraer E-170s, are configured with 68 seats with a 31-inch seat pitch.

Commenting on this first delivery, Jeff Chatfield, executive chairman of Avation and Skywest Airlines, said, “We are proud to be contributing to the expansion of Virgin Australia and the growth of regional aviation across the country. ATRs have proven themselves in tough environments featuring unrivalled performances, leading edge comfort and an unmatched reliability. These are the right aircraft for our passengers and our airline, and a great asset for our leasing company, Avation.”

Avation has entered into 10-year loan facility agreements for up to $152.2 million, principally provided under a mandate to Crédit Agricole Corporate and Investment Bank. The loan facilities can be drawn down progressively by Avation on an aircraft by aircraft basis.

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