A HIGH-SPEED version of the 74-seat ATR 72 is likely to be the first product developed by the new regional alliance formed by the ATR consortium (Aerospatiale and Alenia) and British Aerospace.

ATR says that it is "studying possible engines" for a higher-speed version of the ATR 72. Following the pattern for the ATR 42-500, the aircraft has been christened the ATR 72-500, will feature six-bladed propellers, and cruise at 350kt (650km/h).

The future of the planned ATR 82 regional turboprop is less certain and could be a casualty from the merger. "We've pushed back work on it as a result of the negotiations," admits ATR president Henri-Paul Puel.

Of the new Aero International Regional (AIR) consortium, Aerospatiale president Louis Gallois says: "The priority is to reduce costs and to become more competitive."

The ATR, Jetstream and Avro names will continue while the current products are still on the market. BAe has already ceased production of the 50-seat Jetstream 61, but will supply the 19-seat Jetstream 31 "to order".

There are no immediate plans for a new 100-seater regional aircraft, although Gallois says that eventually "...we will have to design new turboprop and jet products that better reflect the needs of the market". Alenia president Georgio Zappa says that the next step of the alliance is to determine the "timing and investment" of such a programme.

AIR chairmen will be drawn from France, Italy and the UK in rotation. The first chairman is to be Alenia Aeronautics president Nino D'Angelo. Puel is to be the first chairman and chief executive officer.

Source: Flight International