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ATR woos China with demonstration tour

ATR has completed a demonstration tour of its ATR 42-600 in several Chinese cities, as it attempts to re-enter the promising China market.

The aircraft visited several airports in Yunnan province, including those in Diqing, Lijiang and Kunming, to demonstrate its capability in high-altitude and mountainous environments. The manufacturer says the turboprop took off and landed from the airport in Diqing, which is 3,287m above sea level, and the highest altitude airport that an ATR 42-600 has served and is certified for.

“No other aircraft in production could regularly serve Diqing in a general aviation configuration and this highlights its remarkable versatility and performance, even in ‘hot and high’ conditions, surrounded by challenging terrain,” says ATR chief executive Stefano Bortoli. He describes the type as the “perfect modern solution” to enhance China’s regional connectivity.

The turboprop, which has the words "highland eagle" in Mandarin on its livery, was on static display at Airshow China last week. It departed the show for the tour on 7 November.

ATR is forecasting a demand for 1,100 turboprops in the 30-70 seat category over the next 20 years in China, the vast majority of which will be to open new routes.

At the 2017 Paris air show, ATR signed LOIs with Shaanxi Tianju Investment for 10 ATR 42s, and Xuzhou Hantong Aviation for three of the type. The manufacturer is attempting the strategy of using smaller start-ups to gain a foothold in the China market.

The first ATR entered service in China in 1997 with China Xinjiang Airlines, which had orders for five ATR 72-500s. The carrier was taken over by China Southern Airlines in 2003, which continued operating the turboprops until 2010 before selling them to Nordic Aviation Capital a year later, marking the exit of ATR turboprops from China.

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