European turboprop manufacturer ATR is stepping up its marketing effort to boost awareness of its VIP-configured ATR 42 and 72 airliners. The move comes as the Toulouse-based airframer hands over the first of four VIP ATR 72-500s to the Royal Thai Air Force for the exclusive use of the Thai royal family, government and military officials. The three remaining aircraft will all be delivered before the end of the year.

"We have sold 12 VIP ATRs since the 1990s - five 42s and seven 72s - without even actively marketing the aircraft," says ATR. "While our main focus is the airline business, in today's economic climate there is room to promote ourselves and our turboprops as an alternative to the business aircraft available on the market. We are well positioned to do that." The EADS and Alenia joint venture says rising fuel prices are pushing up demand for turboprops, and those with large cabin like the ATRs are becoming increasingly appealing. "Given that around 70% of VIP flights are no more than 2h long," says ATR, "both the 50-seat 42 and 68-seat 72 aircraft have large cabins that can be adapted for a number of roles such as group or executive transport." The aircraft can also be re-sold into the airliners or cargo markets "making them very versatile", ATR adds.

ATR is holding talks with completion centres that can design and develop interiors for the aircraft.

Source: Flight International