ATR expects China will require 1,100 turboprops in the 30-70 seat category by 2037, the vast majority of which will be used to open up new routes.

The European airframer released its first ever China market forecast at Airshow China, showing that it expects demand for 800 aircraft in the 30-seat category, 70 in the 50 seat category and 230 in the 70 seat category.

Bernard Pabon, ATR’s head of market strategy, explains that the drivers of that will include government initiatves aimed at spurring general and regional aviation growth, the realative efficiency of tubroprops over jets at shorter distances, and demand from travelers to open up new air routes.

“Compared to other regions in the world, we can see China is at a very young maturity stage in its regional network, but yet it is promised to have very tremendous growth ahead,” he says.

Pabon notes that regional aircraft - including regional jets - represent barely 2% of the Chinese commercial aircraft fleet, which is dominated by Boeing 737s and Airbus A320s.

Flight Fleets Analyzer shows that there are only 38 passenger turboprops in service in the country. That number is comprised of 35 Avic Xian MA-60s, two MA-600s and one Viking Air DHC-8-400 Twin Otters.

A number of narrowbodies in China, Pabon adds, operate on short routes that require subsidies to breakeven. However, using smaller, more efficient turboprops that are better suited to shorter routes could be more profitable, thus dispensing with the need for subsidies.

ATR has had a mixed history in China. China Xinjiang Airlines operated ATR 72s between 1997 and 2010, but the type has been absent from the country since then.

At the 2017 Paris air show ATR disclosed letters of intent from Shaanxi Tianju Investment and Xuzhou Hantong Aviaton for a total of 13 ATR 42s.

Source: Cirium Dashboard