ATR: keeping flying high
With 46 aircraft ordered and options for 35 additional, ATR proves itself once again the market leader in the field of regional aircraft with fewer than 90 seats. Orders for a total of 1.98 billion dollars, have been signed with airlines from five continents which will be revealed throughout the week at the Paris Air Show currently underway.
Today ATRs are the worldwide bestseller in the fewer than 90 seats regional aircraft segment. Despite a difficult economic and financial context and a highly competitive environment, sales since the beginning of the year have enabled ATR to break through the symbolic barrier of 1,500 firm orders and to consolidate an order book of nearly 300 aircraft, the equivalent of more than three years of production.
The French-Italian aircraft manufacturer presented at the Paris Airshow also major technological improvements in terms of versatility, operational reliability and the configuration of its aircraft, now available with the ‘600 series, the last version of the turboprop which was flown for the first time in 1984.
Among the innovations announced by ATR, the deployment of a new, improved vision system, available for the first time on a commercial aircraft. The “Clear Vision” system provides the pilots with head-up information about the flight, directly to the eyes, by means of a device, the Skylens, worn on the face. The increased visibility obtained with the Skylens also enables minimum landing distances to be reduced.
At the Show ATR presented also a new wind shear detection system, the installation of new ATR ‘-600’ avionics systems, for even more precise airport final approaches and the new High Density version of the “Armonia” cabin, capable of accommodating up to 78 passengers (in place of the current 74), in response to demand from certain airlines. The “High Density” cabin should receive certification before the end of the year, for service entry in 2016. ATR unveiled a new cabin combining increased cargo volume (up to more than 19 m3 in volume) plus seats for up to 44 passengers. The launch customer for this mixed cabin is Papua New Guinea’s PNG Airlines, which will receive its first delivery in 2015.
ATR also announced the opening of two new branch offices in Beijing and Tokyo, to ensure greater reactivity on two markets offering very significant potential for the development of regional air networks with turboprops. Hence ATR also announced, during the Paris Airshow the signature with Japan Air Commuter (a Japan Airlines company) of a contract for the purchase of 8 ATR42-600s, plus 1 option and 14 purchase rights, valued at US$ 496 million. The signature of this deal represents a major milestone for ATR, as it represents the 1500th ATR aircraft sold since the beginning of the program. It is also the first contract signed between ATR and a Japanese airline.
Being part of the “Clean Sky” project, a European initiative which aims to develop technologies to reduce gas emissions and noise from tomorrow's aircraft, ATR announced that an ATR 72 prototype will be carrying out the very first test flight for the project in the next few days. ATR is playing an active role in the Green Regional Aircraft program. This first flight test campaign should be able to test new, lighter and more insulating composite materials and vibro-acoustic sensors installed on a section of the aircraft’s fuselage. Improvements in terms of lower weight and reductions in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by the ATR 72 should eventually benefit the regional aircraft of tomorrow. These flights will also be able to test the new generation of optical fibers for improved identification of micro-cracks and easier maintenance.