This first appeared as a Comment in the 28 January issue of Flight International
A decade ago, we were preparing obituaries for ATR. Annual output at the Franco-Italian airframer had sunk to single figures. The ascent of faster, flashier regional jets had made propeller types distinctly unfashionable by the turn of the century. Noisy and uncomfortable, the Toulouse-built turboprops – like their rival Bombardier’s Dash 8 family – seemed from another era.
Ten years, a product refresh, a spike in fuel prices and some determined management later, ATR is firmly back in business, confirming 74 deliveries last year.
Although North America remains tough to crack, demand from emerging markets is particularly strong, and the larger ATR 72-600 has become the airliner of choice in the 70-seat market.
Had it been an independent company, ATR would have in all probability run out of cash long ago. However, its owners – Airbus Group and Finmeccanica – have deep pockets. The two partners have not always been the best of bedfellows, however. Differences over the rationale and timing of a possible 90-seat stretch emerged publicly at last year’s Paris air show, and could even lead to a painful divorce. However, despite competition from Canada and China with the MA600, ATR remains in robust health.
Sticking with a failing product is not always a good idea, but ATR’s decision to keep the faith in the dark years of the mid-noughties has paid off.