FARNBOROUGH: ATR targets US market with 42-600

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Turboprop manufacturer ATR is targeting fourth-quarter certification from the US Federal Aviation Administration for its newest family member, the 50-seat ATR 42-600.

It secured certification from the European Aviation Safety Agency for the type last month and the Franco-Italian manufacturer is eagerly eyeing the market for regional aircraft in the USA.

Mario Formica, ATR vice-president, marketing, says: "There are 1,100 aircraft in the 30-seat market [in the West] that need replacement over the next few years."

The ATR 42-600 is the only in-production aircraft in its category and ATR identifies a requirement for 500 aircraft in the 50-seat market over the next 20 years. It is targeting replacement of Saab 2000, Bombardier Dash 8 300 and Fokker 50 turboprops, but Formica thinks that many regional jets are also long-overdue for replacement by a more economical alternative.

"There are 250,000 frequencies in North America flown by 50-seat jets that are not operated in a profitable way. More than half of these could be operated more efficiently with 50- and 70-seat turboprops," he says. Aircraft in this category will require retirement in the 2014-2019 timeframe.

Formica says an ATR 42-600 customer flying a 10-aircraft fleet over a year will burn 2.2 million fewer gallons of fuel than an operator flying a similarly sized fleet of regional jets.

The first 42-600 will be handed over in September this year and ATR plans to deliver at least four aircraft to customers in 2012.

It secured just the one commitment for the type at Farnborough, with Danish lessor Nordic Aviation Capital ordering a solitary 42-600.

Other customers include Air Tahiti, Tanzania's Precision Air and Russia's NordStar Airlines.

Launch customer Royal Air Maroc Express will switch its 42-600 order to the 72-600 model, according to a source close to the situation.