RAA2010: ATR reveals US airline tour discussing new large turboprops

ATR arrived in Milwaukee having completed a spring tour of selected US regional airlines discussing not just the -600 Series but a new family of large turboprops.

The manufacturer’s VP marketing and airline studies, Mario Formica (pictured), reported that a team from Toulouse had toured potential customers garnering opinions on the requirements for a 70-seat and 90-plus seat aircraft family. In its forecast, ATR predicts a requirement for 1,150 turboprops with 90+ seats.

Decision time for the aircraft family is likely to be next year. “2011 is a fundamental year for taking decisions, as we have to take into account that our partners at Airbus have resource challenges,” Formica explained. “Also, it will be a decisive year because we’d like to enter service around 2016, which is when the engine manufacturers expect to have new technology engines available. We have been speaking to all three major players.

One of the attributes the new family is likely to have is more speed. “The next generation is likely to be 60-70 kt faster than the -600 Series,” Formica commented. “There will also be a need for a better time-to-climb which is needed for increasingly congested airspace.”

Formica expects the market for turboprops to continue to grow. He noted that in 2000, forecasts expected deliveries for the 20 years from then to be 85% regional jet and 15% turboprop. Now the split is 60:40 jet to turboprop.

“If you look at the main focus of the jet manufacturers, they are focusing around the 100-seat market and above. Bombardier with the CRJ1000 and the CSeries, Embraer with the 190 being their biggest selling E-Jet and Sukhoi and Mitsubishi moving that way. That leaves a gap for the large turboprop to fill,” Formica claimed.

Discussing the potential for turboprops in North America, Formica explained how carriers could use ATR aircraft in capacity purchase agreement (CPA) bids. “Margins are down with RJs to 6%-8% rather than the double-digit margins enjoyed only a few years ago. Using turboprops on the right routes is the only way to maintain those margins,” he declared. “ We’ve discussed with airlines like SkyWest and Pinnacle the need to move to mixed fleets and put the right aircraft on the right segment.”

On the development of the -600 Series, Formica confirmed that the programme is on schedule with the two test aircraft having loggest more than 150 flight hours. Cerification is expected in the fourth quarter of this year with first deliveries in the second half of 2011.

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

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