Turboprop manufacturer ATR has formally launched development of a short take-off and landing version of the ATR 42-600.
The airframer – jointly owned by Airbus and Leonardo – says that its board of directors has approved the programme and that deliveries are scheduled to begin during the second half of 2022.
Some 20 commitments have been received from operators and lessors for the variant dubbed ATR 42-600S.
ATR says that it expects to "firm up orders in the coming months".
At the Paris air show in June, ATR disclosed initial deals with turboprop specialist Elix Aviation for 10 units and with launch operator Air Tahiti for two aircraft.
An incremental commitment for another five aircraft came from an undisclosed customer, and ATR said at the time that it had signed a memorandum of understanding with the Development Bank of Japan regarding the ATR 42-600S.
ATR says that the aircraft will be capable of operating from 800m paved runways with 40 passengers in standard meteorological conditions for 200nm missions, as opposed to the 1,050m lower limit for the non-STOL variant.
The standard ATR 42-600 can accommodate 50 passengers.
Principal modifications to the aircraft include a larger rudder, an option to symmetrically deploy spoilers during landing, and an autobrake system to ensure full braking immediately after touching down.
The aircraft will be powered by the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW127M engine, like the standard ATR 42-600 and ATR 72-600. But pilots will be able to select between engine ratings for the ATR 42 and ATR 72 in order to increase power for STOL operation or operate "more efficiently with less power on longer runways", the manufacturer says.
ATR foresees that the STOL variant will expand the "addressable market" by 25%, as the aircraft may be used to replace 30-seat legacy turboprops and to operate from smaller airports that could previously not be served by ATRs.
Close to 500 airports have runways between 800m and 1,000m, the manufacturer says.
Chief executive Stefano Bortoli states that development of the ATR 42-600S "makes total sense and paves the way for the company's future".
He sees "huge potential" for the standard ATR 42-600 and argues that the STOL version "could help airlines widen their horizons".
Additional reporting by Jonathan Robins