Praise for the fuel efficiency of ATR's 72-600 by two key industry executives has intensified the competition between ATR's -600 model and the Bombardier Q400.

Air Lease chief executive Steven Udvar-Hazy, whose order for 10 ATR 72-600s caused a bit of intrigue at the show, describes the -600 as the "most fuel efficient of the larger turboprops", offering the lowest costs to the lessor's customers. "We look forward to introducing this aircraft."

Chairman of fast-growing Brazilian start-up Azul David Neeleman, who ordered 20 ATR 72-600s, explains when the carrier "looked at the fuel burn difference of the ATR 72 and Q400 it wasn't even close".

Asked if Bombardier is concerned about the Q400's competitiveness, company vice-president marketing for commercial aircraft Philippe Poutissou says the Q400 is significantly faster in cruise and offers six to eight more seats.

ATR 72 600, ©ATR

That allows operators to generate revenue on longer flights or fly more during the flight day schedule, Poutissou says. He claims the Q400 can generate up to 30% more revenue per available seat kilometre "compared to our competitor".

Neeleman admits the Q400's speed is not necessary for the planned missions of Azul's Q400s, and the airline also does not need the extra six seats offered on the Q400. "We don't need to carry around the extra pounds."

With fuel prices remaining volatile, the momentum ATR built at the show could continue. Hazy says he is looking forward to introducing the aircraft at the end of 2011, and roughly 16 operators have show an interest in the aircraft.

While seven months is a quick snapshot in time, ATR's 30 72-600 orders at the show pushed its half-year total to 42, which is two more orders than the airframer logged for the entire year of 2009. Bombardier's order from Qantas for seven aircraft bring its total Q400 orders for the year to 22, including a 15-aircraft order from Canadian regional carrier Jazz.

Source: Flight International