Franco-Italian regional aircraft manufacturer ATR is to launch a life-extension programme in response to freighter operators' requests to maintain value in the twin-turboprop family.

The 50-seat ATR 42 and 66-seat ATR 72 should have their design objective lives extended by 50% from 70,000 cycles to 105,000 under the planned ageing structures programme, says Giorgio Vannucchi, ATR structures director. The initiative stemmed from a corrosion prevention programme led by the French airworthiness body DGAC, which involved several ATR operators including American Eagle, Arkia Israeli Airlines and FedEx Express, he adds.

These customers requested the airframe life-extension programme to maintain the value of used aircraft, says Vannucchi. The global ATR freighter fleet now in service largely consists of higher-life airframes, he adds.

The ATR airframe, originally certificated in 1984, meets the stringent rules governing fatigue and damage tolerance introduced after the Aloha Airlines incident in 1988, when an ageing Boeing 737-200 lost a forward fuselage section in flight over Hawaii, says Vannucchi. As such, ATR needs to convince the DGAC that in-service repairs and service bulletins do not weaken the airframe and that the time between overhauls is adequate to monitor fatigue. ATR expects the €800,000 ($953,000) life extension to be approved by the end of next year, after re-analysis of all original certification data.

The oldest ATR currently has around 45,000 cycles, and could be grounded in 2009. The average age is 30,000 cycles, however, which gives the manufacturer ample time to complete the study, he adds.



Source: Flight International