ATR prepares for production ramp-up

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Anticipating growth in demand for turboprops, ATR is moving to ramp up production rates in 2012 in a bid to deliver as many as 60 aircraft in the year.

Speaking to Flight International on the sidelines of a Toulouse ceremony making ATR's 900th delivery - to Trip Linhas Aereas - chief executive Filippo Bagnato said the Franco-Italian manufacturer will hold 2011 output at about the 50-plus aircraft it expects to deliver this year as it concentrates on introduction of its new -600 series.

"We are not going to grow our delivery rate next year because we will deliver the first new -600 series in the second quarter," Bagnato said.

He said output in 2013 "could go even higher" than 60 aircraft. Last year, ATR delivered 54 aircraft to customers, one aircraft less than in 2008.

Bagnato recalled that when he left ATR in 2007, the manufacturer had considered boosting production to 70 aircraft a year by 2013.

At July's Farnborough air show, ATR confirmed a market recovery, an optimistic outlook underscored by Bagnato in Toulouse. "Our market forecast is, no doubt, better than last year. We see a total market for 150 aircraft per year over the next 20 years," he said.

Bagnato said the forecast is not only based on traffic growth but also on the market share gains against the regional jets. "Ten years ago, our market forecast showed regional jets with an 85% market share and turboprops with 15%. Today, the market forecast shows turboprops with a 40% market share and regional jets 60%," he said.

ATR's final assembly lines "do not have significant bottlenecks" and can cope with increased throughput as they stand, said Bagnato - but the airframer's suppliers may "have to make investments in order to respond to a ramp-up in production".

Bagnato, who took the helm at ATR this year for the second time, has drawn some parallels with his first term at ATR. "When I arrived in 2004, the situation was critical. We had delivered 10 aircraft and our backlog was at six aircraft."

Bagnato said there was cause for optimism, however. "There was a recovery in traffic and growth followed. Once we achieved the first bunch of orders in 2005, the main problem was to convince the supply partners to increase their investment in ATR. At the time, nobody was ready to reinvest in ATR to again increase the supply chain," he said.

ATR customers received over 15 aircraft in 2005 and 24 in 2006 before deliveries jumped to 44 in 2007, when Bagnato handed the company over to his successor, Stéphane Mayer.

That year, the manufacturer added a second final assembly line and a new delivery centre as it needed the resources to cope with additional demand.