Papua New Guinea carrier PNG Air has converted five options for ATR 72-600 turboprops into a firm order as part of fleet renewal plans.
The airline, which operates domestically within Papua New Guinea, received its first ATR 72-600 in late 2015 as part of a deal comprising six aircraft on firm order and 14 options.
The ATRs – four have been delivered so far – have allowed PNG Air to retire aircraft such as de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otters (which have already left the fleet) and Dash 8-100s.
“The entry into service of our brand new, modern ATR -600s clearly supports our strategy to transform our business by modernising our fleet and offering Papua New Guinea a new standard of domestic air service that is more comfortable and dependable,” PNG Air chief executive Muralee Siva said in a statement on Monday (European time).
“We will progressively phase out our previous-generation turboprops to introduce an aircraft that has become a reference on the regional market worldwide.”
The airline has said previously it planned to have an an all-ATR fleet by the early 2020s.
New ATR chief executive Christian Scherer said: “The robustness of our new ATR -600s, along with their ability to operate in remote areas, are great assets for the airline.”
PNG Air was also the launch customer of the manufacturer’s “cargo flex” solution, with the cabin able to be converted between either a full passenger or combi layout at short notice.
Operating as a combi – the conversion can be completed overnight – increases cargo capacity by 82 per cent, from 1,700kg to 3,100kg, while the number of seats is reduced from 72 to 44.
However, a report from aviation thinktank CAPA – Centre for Aviation noted PNG Air had delayed the start of combi as it preferred to carry cargo on its Dash 8-100s for now.
Toulouse-based ATR, which is jointly owned by Airbus and Alenia Aermacchi, offers the ATR 42-600 (46-50 seats) and the ATR 72-600 (68-78 seats).
While Air New Zealand is on its way to being the third largest operator of ATR turprobops after its fresh order for 15 72-600s in 2015 to replace its 72-500s and for growth, Virgin Australia has announced plans to withdraw between four and six of the type over the next three years.