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Confident ATR outlines Paris order surge

Orders from four customers at the Paris air show will push regional airframer ATR's sales this year beyond the record figure of 53 achieved at the same point in 2007.

ATR expects to disclose orders that will take it "well beyond" the previous figure, said chief executive Filippo Bagnato during a briefing in Paris.

Two of the orders will be for at least 10 aircraft, added a source familiar with the situation.

The deals are likely to come from a North American firm, marking renewed strategic interest for the European turboprop on the continent, as well as customers from Southeast Asia and Latin America, including Brazil.

Bagnato said the North American market "was closed" but "now it's reopened".

He added that ATR had about 50 aircraft in the "growing" Brazilian market, and said: "Taking into consideration what we signed last year and what we have today in the oven, it's not a dream to say this will be doubled very soon."

ATR expects some 50-55% of the orders in 2011 to come from new customers.

"This seems to me the overall picture for the order intake," Bagnato said.

Orders at the Paris air show should take the ATR backlog figure beyond 200 turboprops, equating to some $5 billion, as the airframer looks to raise its production rate next year.

ATR is keeping production this year "in the area" of 50-53 aircraft.

Bagnato said it would be "imprudent" to hike the production rate while it concentrates on bringing its -600 series family into service.

The ATR 72-600 is certificated and ready for first delivery to Royal Air Maroc while the ATR 42-600 is undergoing final tests - primarily centred on the autopilot - with certification planned by the end of this year. First delivery will be in 2013 but ATR has not finalised a customer.

The manufacturer has sold around 150 of the -600s but still expects to deliver -500s next year, although Bagnato said there would be "very few" -500s produced from 2013.

ATR still plans to raise production next year to 70 aircraft, and possibly further in 2013-14 if the airframer is confident that the supply chain can cope.

"I'm in the process of discussing and preparing ground for a delivery plan which will require more aircraft," said Bagnato, but added: "We've not finished the analysis for the supply chain for 2013-14."

He said the airframer's slots were exhausted for 2011 but it still had slots for 2012.

Around 3,000 personnel work for ATR, including 900 directly employed. The production ramp-up will involve raising the number by 1,500, taking the total to more than 4,000.

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