ATR is ramping production up to record levels over the next two years, following another strong sales performance in 2006.

Speaking at the company's annual press conference in Paris, chief executive Filippo Bagnato described 2006 as "the year of confirmation of success in the market for ATR", while 2005 was "the year of the surprise", when its order backlog surged from six to 90. That figure now stands at 124, with 63 new orders and 25 options secured in 2006.

Although Bombardier has not yet reported the 2006 orders for its rival Dash 8 Q Series, Bagnato says ATR's order market share was around 60% and is likely to remain stable at that level this year. Bagnato is confident of continuing growth, thanks to forecasts of demand for more than 1,000 new turboprops over the next 10 years.

The airframer delivered 24 aircraft in 2006 and expects that to almost double to 44 this year, and exceed 60 in 2008. This will put ATR's output on a par with the turboprop boom years of the early 1990s, when its annual production averaged 50 and peaked at 62 units in 1991. However, ATR's output tailed off dramatically during the regional jet surge of the late 1990s and early 2000s, reaching a low of nine aircraft in 2003.

ATR deliveries

Turnover has surged 30% to $700 million for 2006, compared with $542 million in 2005. Bagnato expects the company to achieve a turnover of $1 billion in 2007, and emphasises that profitability is healthy too, with a return on sales figure of around 11% at the end of 2006.

ATR is also targeting emerging markets for growth. It is setting up new facilities in Brazil - where it has just signed a $125 million deal for seven new ATR 72-500s with TRIP Linhas Aereas - and India, and has won orders for an unprecedented 12 new aircraft from African carriers in the last year.

But Bagnato also predicts a resurgence in the US market, which has accounted for just 5% of its order book for the ATR 42-500/ATR 72-500 series, although between 130 and 140 older ATR aircraft are in operation in the USA.

"Two years ago, American airlines were not even accepting discussions," Bagnato says. "Today, the situation is different - they are recovering. So we are restarting discussions with American airlines. I think that in 2007 we will see a recovery in the turboprop market in the USA."

Source: Flight International