The French and Indian governments have signed a preliminary agreement, which could lead to local assembly and manufacture of the ATR 42 regional and military turboprop by Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL).

The Franco-Italian consortium was the sole remaining contender for the deal, after the elimination of Bombardier and Saab, offering respectively the Dash 8 and 2000, in July 1998. The agreement covers a phased introduction of ATR42 activities, beginning with HAL equipping and customising aircraft for the Indian market, then assembling complete aircraft from kits supplied by ATR.

"If the market is big enough, HAL could then build a final assembly line and start manufacturing components locally," says an ATR source. The potential market for military and civil versions of the ATR 42 are "-around 80-100 aircraft over the next 10 years".

The deal would be similar to that struck with China's Xian Aircraft in 1997 for the 70-seat ATR 72. Under that agreement, rear fuselages will be produced for the Chinese market, estimated to be similar in size to that of India.

French transport minister, Jean-Claude Gayssot struck the initial agreement on 1 February. He says a "-clear idea on selling the aircraft" was expected by May.

The first flight of the ATR 42 MP maritime patrol variant (pictured) took place on 2 February at Alenia Aerospazio in Turin-Caselle. Alenia is providing systems for the aircraft, ATR the platform. Italy has bought three examples.

Source: Flight International