ATR is targeting the replacement of the large fleets of US-operated regional jets with its turboprop family as airlines look to reduce operating costs in the face of sustained high fuel prices.

Speaking in Paris during the company's 2009 results briefing, chief executive Stéphane Mayer told Flightglobal that "today, with the current high fuel costs, there are opportunities to replace hundreds of 50- and 70-seat regional jets with turboprops".

He adds: "Progressively we will see the replacement of jets delivered in the 1995-2005 period with turboprops, and we are preparing for that with potential customers."

While conceding that "we haven't sold any ATRs in the USA for the past 10 years", Mayer says that over the next five years he sees a series of potential deals for "20, 25, or 30" turboprops from US customers, and does not rule out landing a order during 2010.

However, negotiations are complicated by the fact that "many of these aircraft would be replacement, so there needs to be some way to dispose of lots of the jets". Mayer contrasts this situation with the one in South-East Asia - the region that he expects will represent at least 50% of ATR's market in the near term - where turboprop demand is primarily by growth.

Mayer says that the modern avionics offered on the latest 600 Series enables the new ATR product line to be competitive in the North American marketplace, where the latest standard of cockpit technology is required, for example to enable Category 3 bad weather operations.

He also points to ATR's strong support network in the region - both from spares and flight training perspectives - as a further competitive strength.

Source: Flight International