PIA inks deal to replace F27s with ATR 42s

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Flight International online news 11:45GMT: Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has finalised an order for seven ATR 42-500 turboprops, concluding a deal which has been anticipated since July.

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Deliveries of the 48-seat ATR 42s, which will replace Karachi-based PIA’s ageing Fokker F27s, will begin in May next year and end in 2007.

The $100 million deal was signed today at PIA’s headquarters by the airline’s chairman and CEO Tariq Kirmani and ATR chief executive Filippo Bagnato.

Kirmani says: “PIA carried out an in-depth evaluation of all aircraft available in this turboprop aircraft category. Demo flights were also conducted during the evaluation.

“The aircraft were gauged on various performance attributes, for instance passenger appeal and comfort, aircraft maintainability, operational durability and economics. PIA selected ATR 42-500 aircraft as it best-suited these parameters.”

Eventual selection of the ATR 42-500 marks a change from state-owned PIA’s original decision to acquire seven Bombardier Q300 turboprops. This deal, which was subject to Government approval, was never finalised.

Earlier this year PIA indicated that it might also add ATR 72s in the longer term. The carrier, which has a total fleet of 39 aircraft, serves 66 destinations – 42 international and 24 domestic – and employs over 19,000 staff.

ATR chief Bagnato says: “PIA is the second new customer to choose our aircraft this year. Once again, this commercial success is evidence of the strong resurgence of the turboprop aircraft in the regional aviation market. I’m very proud of the decision in favour of ATR.”

VICTORIA MOORES / LONDON