ATR has announced the first two orders for a short takeoff and landing (STOL) variant of its 42-600 that is currently in development.
The turboprop maker said at the Paris Air Show on Wednesday (European time) lessor Elix Aviation Capital has ordered 10 aircraft, which will be known as the 42-600S, to be delivered between 2022 and 2024.
Meanwhile, the second order came from South Pacific-based Air Tahiti for two aircraft.
ATR first began work on the 42-600S in 2017. The new variant was designed to takeoff with a full passenger load from runways as short as 800 metres. Currently, ATR quotes a 1,025m takeoff distance for an ATR 42-600 with a max passenger load at ISA and sea level.
The STOL variant would open up the ATR 42 to a lot of smaller regional airfields in Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the South Pacific and elsewhere.
“Thanks to this upgrade, several hundred more airports will be accessible by ATR, offering airlines new commercial opportunities and providing local populations with better access to the global economy, health care, education and culture,” ATR said in a statement.
ATR said it had begun accepting orders for the aircraft. However, it said the 42-600S would be “launched officially once approved by the company’s board of directors”. This was expected to occur before the end of calendar 2019.
The order for 10 42-600S was the first direct purchase from an original equipment manufacturer by Elix Aviation Capital, a relatively new player in the market that specialises in regional aircraft.
Elix Aviation Capital chief operating officer John Moore said the 42-600S represented an “excellent opportunity for us to be at the forefront of innovation in our market”.
“The aircraft has the capability to provide significant advantages to airlines, boosting revenue potential and opening up new airports with shorter runways,” Moore said in a statement.
“There are communities all over the world who will be able to benefit from the increased connectivity that this aircraft will supply.”
ATR chief executive Stefano Bortoli said order from Elix “confirms our belief in this product”.
“As a lessor that specialises in turboprops, they understand the market and want to be ahead of the curve,” Bortoli said.
“At ATR, we take our leadership in the regional aviation market very seriously and with new product innovations like the 42-600S we aim to keep responding to what airlines and their passengers need.”
Moore was previously head of global sales at ATR before moving to Elix Aviation Capital at the end of 2017.
Air Tahiti general manager Manate Vivish said the 42-600S was excellent news for residents of the archipelago and the tourists who headed to the country.
“The ATR 42-600S will enable us to use higher-capacity aircraft for destinations which until now had only been accessible with much smaller aircraft,” Vivish said in a statement.
“I am so happy to be part of the launch of this new version of the ATR. This turboprop has already earned worldwide recognition for its high-quality performance, especially for island networks.”
Air Tahiti, which has been flying ATRs for three decades, said it expected to operate the aircraft on routes within the Marquesas Islands, increasing passengers to particular destinations served presently by smaller aircraft only. The order would also allow the airline to reduce the number of aircraft types in its fleet.
Bortoli said Air Tahiti had been one of ATR’s “best ambassadors” for more than 30 years.
“Day after day, the airline demonstrates our aircraft’s ability to serve island communities in a sustainable, responsible way,” Bortoli said.
“We are convinced that this enhanced version will help the airline boost connectivity between communities even further, and support local development even more effectively.”
ATR has forecast a need for some 1,200 turboprops in the 30-50 seat category over the next 20 years, and it is at this point the only game in town for airlines looking for this kind of capacity.
De Havilland Canada, which just finalised its purchase of the other current primary turboprop, the Dash 8 (AKA in its current iteration the Bombardier Q400), has yet to signal whether it also planned to compete in this segment, perhaps with an upgraded Dash 8 Q300 version of its venerable turboprop.
Lots of exciting news at our Press Conference today! Hear what ATR CEO, Stefano Bortoli and Elix Chief Commercial Officer, John Moore, had to say! #ParisAirShow #PAS19 #ATR72 #ATRintolife #Avgeeks pic.twitter.com/GVNpZQZTIf
— ATR (@ATRaircraft) June 19, 2019
In an Australian context, the ATR 42-600S could be significant for Lord Howe Island Airport, located about 425nm east of Sydney in the Pacific Ocean. The airport has a single runway in an east-west orientation that is 866m in length, which limits the types of aircraft that can operate there.
Currently, QantasLink schedules up to 19 flights a week to Lord Howe Island from Sydney, as well as some seasonal services from Port Macquarie, with 36-seat Dash 8 Q200 turboprops, the smallest aircraft type in its fleet.
While the standard ATR 42-600 was able takeoff from Lord Howe Island currently, its payload would be limited to around 36 passengers, it was understood.
ATR regional sales director Jean-Daniel Kosowski told Australian Aviation in October 2018 the work on the 42-600S was “not a huge modification”.
“In simple terms it is basically using the rating power of the 72 on the 42 and having better brakes,” Kosowski said.
“And the aileron just needs to be changed a little because if you have a more powerful engine if there is one engine out on takeoff, you need to be sure that the rudder can compensate.”
“It’s all about this. It’s not a huge modification.”