Turboprop manufacturer ATR tripled its order intake in 2017, ahead of its firming up of a deal with Florida-based Silver Airways to mark a return to the US market.

The Toulouse-based joint venture says it last year gathered 113 orders – all but one for ATR 72-600s, and including 30 freighters for US cargo carrier FedEx Express – plus 40 options. The sole ATR 42-600 commitment came from Japan Air Commuter. In 2016, ATR had won 36 orders.

Revenue was flat last year at $1.8 billion. Chief executive Christian Scherer says $1.5 billion was generated by aircraft sales and the rest by maintenance and training service agreements.

ATR does not provide further financial figures but Scherer describes it as "probably the most profitable" aircraft manufacturer today, and says its two shareholders – Airbus and Italian aerospace group Leonardo – are "happy" with its profit and cash contributions.

FedEx, IndiGo and Iran Air accounted for the bulk of orders last year: 50, 30 and 20, respectively. There were also six from Taiwan's Mandarin Airlines, two from Air Senegal, and one each from Air Tahiti, Bahamasair, Swedish carrier BRA, Japan Air Commuter and an undisclosed customer.

The manufacturer delivered 70 ATR 72-600s, eight ATR 42-600s and two second-hand aircraft in 2017. Scherer says ATR could have handed over "a few more" but was "happy to hold" production at "around 80" aircraft. It intends to maintain this level in 2018.

A tentative commitment from Silver Airways for up to 50 ATRs – disclosed in August – has led to Nordic Aviation Capital's order for 15 aircraft which, along with five from its existing orderbook, will be leased to the US carrier. Deliveries will run from March through the first quarter of 2020.

Silver's ATR fleet will include four 72-600s – including three that are part of the new order – with 42-600s making up the rest. However, Scherer says the "beauty" of the deal is that the mix can change.

Florida-based SIlver will configure the ATR 42s with 46 seats and use them to replace its 21 Saab 340s, fitted with 36 seats.

Scherer says the ATR 42s will have the "same cost signature" as the Saabs but provide a range of operational benefits, including higher passenger comfort levels and lower noise. He says the deal marks "ATR's comeback" to the USA.

Source: FlightGlobal.com