Julian Moxon/PARIS

ATR is to integrate all functions previously carried out by its separate French and Italian components into a single operation based at Toulouse. The move is aimed at improving the turboprop manufacturer's efficiency as it faces continuing low order volumes.

With sales of just 24 aircraft in 2000 and anticipated orders of 25-30 per year for the foreseeable future, ATR plans to evolve from a loose "GIE" partnership between 50/50 shareholders EADS and Alenia into a single company as soon as possible. The plan is hindered by talks between the pair about co-operation in combat aircraft and space, and the Italian manufacturer's entry into Airbus.

The streamlined ATR will have a single management responsible for sales, aftersales, marketing, research and development and support, while its two final assembly lines in Toulouse for the ATR 42 and 72 will be merged into one, releasing space for Airbus operations on the same site.

ATR chief executive Antoine Bouvier admits the plan "does not go as far as Airbus", since the two shareholders will retain ownership of their aerostructures responsibilities (Alenia builds the fuselage, EADS the wings). The creation of a 'full' company quoted on the stock market "could happen in a few years", he adds.

ATR senior vice-president sales and commerce, Alain Brodin, acknowledges the "huge success" of regional jets, but adds that though the market has changed, "we feel that we can survive, and even prosper, with a reduced annual orderbook".

Current projections envisage a replacement market for around 1,000 turboprops over the next 15 years, to be shared equally between ATR and Bombardier. The predictions assume that of 4,000 regional aircraft in operation today, 1,000 are jets. Of the remaining 3,000, two-thirds will be replaced by jets, and the remainder by turboprops.

"These will be customers for whom turboprops are either a cost effective or operationally better solution, or a more environmentally acceptable one," says Brodin. He says India and China "remain very promising". Talks with Hindustan Aeronautics may lead to co-production of 50-80 ATR42s over eight years. "It takes time," he adds. "The deal with Jet Airways [for 5 ATR 72s] took 14 years to tie up."

Besides the 24 firm orders and 10 options for new aircraft, ATR sold 48 used aircraft during 2000, bringing total sales value to around €550 million ($514 million).

Source: Flight International