PARIS AIR SHOW: ATR boosts its -600 backlog

Paris
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ATR chief Stephane Mayer has unveiled a further 20 orders for the turboprop manufacturer's new -600 derivative, at the same time adding detail to the product and flight test plans for the variant.

The airframer is introducing the -600 as a successor to its ATR 42- and 72-500 series aircraft. Improvements include higher-thrust Pratt & Whitney Canada PW127M engines, improved weight performance, an enhanced cabin and all-new Thales flight-deck. The -600 series is on track to be certified in 2010, with initial deliveries planned for 2011.

Speaking during a media briefing yesterday, Mayer revealed that ATR's 170-aircraft backlog now includes 59 orders for the -600, up 20 from January when the tally stood at 39. During the show ATR has already announced a follow-on order from Vietnam Airlines for two ATR 72-500s and Mayer hints that some -600 orders may be on the cards today.

Fleshing out ATR's plans for -600, Mayer says the variant will include a standard cabin with lighter- weight seats and overhead lockers with 30% more capacity. As part of the cabin revamp ATR will offer a dual-class configuration. The new cabin will also be available as an option for the -500 series.

Another innovation which will be available on both the -500 and -600 is a forward door, making it possible to use the same airbridges as regional jets. "Rear stairs are sometimes seen as not being very modern," says Mayer. He adds that the forward door option has been developed at the request of the Thai air force, which will launch the modification on the -500 series. The first aircraft is slated for delivery later this year.

ATR is pushing ahead with its -600 development campaign. Testing of the ATR 72-600 is already underway, using an old prototype test bed which has been equipped with all-new cockpit avionics and cabling. This aircraft achieved power-on last December and the first flight is scheduled to take place this summer. ATR plans to manufacture an all-new airframe tor the ATR 42-600 test programme and it is looking to achieve power-on by year-end.

At the interim mark ATR has delivered 18 aircraft and booked 28 new orders: two ATR 42-500s (undisclosed), two ATR 42-600s (Royal Air Maroc), six ATR 72-500s (four for Nigeria's Afrijet Airlines, two undisclosed) and 18 ATR 72-600s (four for Royal Air Maroc, four for the Italian navy and 10 undisclosed).

Mayer is forecasting more than 50 deliveries in 2009, down from his earlier prediction for over 60. He explains: "We have decided to stop our ramp-up. The production of ATRs will remain at a stable level after having been at a historic high. The decision was taken in March to adapt [our production] to the market."

Despite the delivery reduction, ATR's 2009 turnover target remains largely unchanged because of increased customer services revenues. It is expecting to book $1.4 billion in revenues this year.

Last year ATR had 13 cancellations, and a further nine have been added to the tally in 2009. Mayer says: "A little over 10% of our orders have been cancelled, but almost 90% have been confirmed." ATR's total orders have reached 998 since the beginning of the programme. The ATR chief says: "We are very close to our objective to go to 1,000 this year."