ATR chief executive Patrick de Castelbajac does not expect growth in the turboprop manufacturer's backlog to be accompanied by a rise in the share of orders accounted for by lessors, which is circa one-third.

"We are really focusing on operators," said de Castelbajac during mid-October's European Regions Airline Association (ERA) general assembly in Berlin. "To me, the lessors' share in our backlog should not exceed one-third, roughly... We need to keep the relationship very strongly with the airlines.

"If you start to have most of your aircraft delivered to lessors, somehow the link is not exactly the same."

ATR has meanwhile adopted more conservative forecasts for orders and production-rate increases as a response to failing fuel prices and rising dollar strength.

"The conjunction of the two is challenging for some of our customers," acknowledges de Castelbajac, who now foresees the level of output – which reached 83 aircraft in 2014 – showing stability at around 90 aircraft per annum this year and next.

"We'll get to a hundred, and hopefully above, in 2017," he says. ATR had, earlier this year, indicated that this rate could be attained in 2016.

On the orders tally for 2015, the airframer is likewise cautious, with de Castelbajac foreseeing that between 10 and 20 will have been added, by year-end, to the roughly 60 racked by mid-October. He says such a haul would be "10-20 lower than our hopes".

ATR last year notched 160 orders. "We could not continue with selling two years of production into one year, as we've done in the past," says de Castelbajac.

This year, he admits, ATR had "some ongoing discussions that were stalled a little bit by the dollar situation". He cites the example of Brazil, where the real has weakened against the US currency over the past year. Local currency value has also diluted in Indonesia and Malaysia.

Still, de Castelbajac takes heart from Japan Air Commuter's decision to order ATR turboprops earlier this year, becoming its homeland's first carrier to do so.

The market there is opening up, says de Castelbajac. "I think they realise the need for regional connectivity, at every level in Japan," he adds, asserting that "they cannot do high-speed train everywhere" and that, with the population reducing, there is a move away from grouping people in large cities with "deserts around them".

However, India is the market he identifies as having the strongest potential. While there are infrastructural challenges to be overcome in that country, de Castelbajac sees a "clear willingness" from the Indian government to "reduce red tape" and "simplify things" for regional airlines.

He notes also the growth of the middle classes in India and the huge number of narrowbodies its carriers have on order: "When you see the inflow of single-aisles that will come in the coming five years, they will need feeders – simple as that."

Source: Cirium Dashboard