ATR is expected to today disclose details of an order from a large leasing company for up to 30 turboprops. The order will consist of 15 firm ATR 72-600s and options on another 15.

After significantly expanding its customer base over the past few years with direct orders from airlines, particularly in Asia and South America, ATR sees the lessor community as a target.

"ATR products are good investment in terms of residual values, and fuel efficient," chief executive Filippo Bagnato tells Flight Daily News.

The manufacturer says the proven sales record of the ATR series and the turboprop's economics are increasingly convincing the operating lessors. Having delivered 915 aircraft by the end of last year, and with 200 expected on backlog by the end of the show, total production will pass through the four-figure mark in the first half of 2012, says Bagnato.

Traditionally, lessors represent a third of Airbus and Boeing markets. More than 150 ATR aircraft are owned by the leasing community, Bagnato says, equating to 17% of ATR 42/72 total deliveries.

 ATR 72 600, ©ATR

"The current trend is that more and more lessors are interested in the ATR aircraft. Lessors traditionally trade secondhand aircraft but we have had enquiries for new aircraft," says Bagnato.

Lessors have typically acquired turboprops under sales and leaseback agreements or taken on used aircraft. The appetite for new aircraft in the past 10 years has been limited to TAT Leasing and more recently Nordic Aviation Capital. Being niche lessors, both companies have followed the same business model of acquiring brand-new aircraft, after securing commitment from a lessee.

Nordic Aviation Capital has placed orders with ATR for four aircraft over the past year. The lessor owns and manages a total of 90 ATR aircraft and equally focuses on the Bombardier Q400 model.

But last year's Air Lease order for a total of 20 ATR 72-600s at the Farnborough air show was a breakthrough for ATR.

"[Air Lease] understood it was the right moment to invest in turboprops," Bagnato comments. Air Lease will take delivery of two ATR 72-600s this year and another eight next year. The operating lessor holds options on another 10.

Not only was the Air Lease order speculative but it provided the manufacturer a reference name for other campaigns. "We are working in the direction of expanding our lessor base," Bagnato says.

Operating lessor Avation, of Singapore, is acquiring up to 30 ATR 72s, having entered into a "sale and purchase" contract with ATR for an initial eight aircraft - four -500s and four -600s - and optioned five -600s, with purchase rights on another 17 aircraft.

Virgin Australia will operate the ATR 72 fleet from Australia's Skywest Airlines under a 10-year wet-lease agreement, which in turn will lease the aircraft from Aviation.

Bagnato expects more orders from the leasing community this year. At the ISTAT conference in March, the lessor panel comprising Air Lease, BOC Aviation, CIT Aerospace and GECAS recognised the merits of the turboprops.

Air Lease chief Steven Udvar-Hazy said the developing world is a segment ripe for turboprops. "We see multiple applications and these will be a small portion of our portfolio," he said.

"Turboprops are a segment of the market we are looking at very closely," said CIT Aerospace's Jeffrey Knittel. "When you look at the cross sections of the ATR and Q400, they look a lot like a single-aisle A320 or 737. We believe there is an interesting opportunity."

Source: Flight Daily News