Caribbean’s ATR order emerges from controversy

Washington DC
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Controversy surrounding an order for nine ATR 72-600s placed by Caribbean Airlines in September 2010 seems to have cleared now that the carrier's major shareholder, the government of Trinidad and Tobago, has approved the purchase.

Caribbean plans to use some of the ATRs to replace five Bombardier Dash 8 turboprops it operates.

In recent weeks Bombardier has protested about the manner in which the aircraft order campaign was handled. A letter from the airframer to Trinidad and Tobago attorney general Anand Ramlogan leaked to Trinidad and Tobago Newsday alleged that Bombardier had contended that no request for proposal was issued and preferential treatment was given to ATR.

Bombardier subsequently said the letter was not meant for distribution; however, the company did say that any correspondence of that nature is written in good faith and "there are times where we feel compelled to express concerns over a selection process that appears to fall short of providing a level playing field".

In the mean time Caribbean's chief executive Ian Brunton abruptly departed the carrier after roughly a year at the helm. A new board of directors has been brought in, which, with the government and an aviation consultant, subsequently reviewed the ATR order.

After a recent meeting between Caribbean Airlines chairman George Nicholas III and the government, the carrier said: "All the requisite steps will now be taken to complete the purchase of the nine ATR 72-600 aircraft."

At the time the ATR order was announced Caribbean planned to start deliveries late this year, and the carrier says that the deliveries remain on track.

It also confirms there were discussions with ATR about the airframer building a maintenance base in Trinidad and Tobago, based on the number of aircraft purchased, but that number has not been released by ATR.

Caribbean also says that Brunton, who departed the carrier on 26 November, has "been paid in accordance with the terms of his contract, and the attorneys are now working through the final details".