ATR could potentially re-engine its existing turboprop aircraft before expanding the family to include a larger type, chief executive Patrick de Castelbajac has indicated.
Speaking to FlightGlobal at the Farnborough air show today, de Castelbajac said that ATR shareholder Airbus tended to prefer a revamp of the existing ATR 42/72 series with new engines, while Italian aerospace champion Leonardo – the turboprop manufacturer's other parent – was keen on expanding the family with an all-new 100-seat model.
Airbus and Leonardo each hold 50% of Toulouse-based ATR, and an expansion of the family would hinge on Leonardo's intent to increase its shareholding. But de Castelbajac says ongoing discussions between the two parents about a potential ownership rejig are "not very advanced", and that he doesn't expect a significant change "in the coming months".
But rather than seeing a new engine or family expansion as mutually exclusive options, de Castelbajac argues that re-engining the aircraft could serve as a "bridge" to developing an all-new model later because the existing ATR family might need an update in order to compete against new regional jets, such as Embraer's second E-Jet generation.
Pratt & Whitney Canada is doing a "very good" job providing its PW127M turboprop engine for the current ATR 42-600 and ATR 72-600, says de Castelbajac. But he adds: "It is an old engine."
Talks are under way with P&WC and General Electric, which is evaluating development of a suitable powerplant from its existing G38 turboshaft engine. GE is "quite eager" on potential co-operation with ATR because, de Castelbajac asserts, the market for new-generation regional aircraft is "totally out of reach" for GE after Embraer and Bombardier selected the PW1000G geared turbofan for their future models.
That has created a situation where both P&WC and GE represent "very valid candidates", says de Castelbajac. Any re-engining effort would need to generate fuel-burn savings of at least 15% and a reduction of direct maintenance costs by 20-25%, he adds.