Turboprop manufacturer ATR is nearing the end of flight tests for a projected short take-off and landing (STOL) variant of the ATR 42.
But the programme is still awaiting a formal launch as no customer has so far been secured for the aircraft, dubbed the ATR 42-600S.
ATR chief executive Stefano Bortoli said during a briefing in Paris today that evaluation flights had been begun last year, with an ATR 42-600, to assess potential modifications that could reduce the aircraft's required runway length to 800m (2,600ft), from 1,100m.
He says the test campaign is now at a late stage, though the STOL variant's design has not yet been frozen.
ATR has previously said that it is evaluating a fly-by-wire rudder – to improve manoeuvrability during an engine failure in an area with high terrain – and more powerful brakes.
Noting that both the ATR 42 and ATR 72-600 are powered by the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW127M, Bortoli says that engine control software will be modified to increase power "when required". The engine itself will not need hardware changes.
The "goal" is to launch the programme in 2019, he says. Bortoli's predecessor Christian Scherer – who became Airbus's chief commercial officer in September 2018 – had previously targeted a launch last year.
Meanwhile, talks are ongoing with several airlines and lessors, says Bortoli. He foresees demand for the STOL version from operators that intend to replace smaller legacy aircraft.