ATR has geared up its production system to enable it to deliver 100 aircraft a year as it unveils even more aggressive output targets to cater for its unprecedented order backlog.

The manufacturer has already announced orders for 88 aircraft this year and vice-president marketing Mario Formica told Commercial Aviation's European Aircraft Conference in Venice last week that he expected to announce still more. The airframer has been negotiating with airlines to try to get some to slip their delivery slots to satisfy others desperate to receive their machines.

Output of the EADS-Finmeccanica joint venture is increasing from 44 aircraft this year to 64 in 2008 and 75 in 2009. Production is set to reach 85 in 2011.

The plan is driven by an optimistic outlook and based on ATR's remarkable backlog growth, which has soared from just 10 in January 2005 to a record 180 today. ATR's target is to "maintain and protect" a market share of around 60% over the next 10 years.

"The way we have organised the line there is flexibility and we can ramp up from 80 aircraft per year to 100 aircraft per year," says Formica. "But we can also decrease to 60 without disruption and without losing money."

Formica says that the production ramp-up has not been simple because of suppliers' reluctance to commit to the higher rates after years of faltering turboprop sales: "What we are suffering today, which is similar to Bombardier, is that we are restoring all the supply line from the minimum levels of 2002-3," he says.

"There was some sort of inertia in restarting toolings and to react and to restart effectively all the lines. I think now we have convinced all the suppliers that the market is there and is stable," adds Formica.

Source: Flight International