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Just Getting Started: ATR Marks 40 Years Of Building Planes

One of the quiet achievers of the aviation business, ATR, has just turned 40. From humble beginnings, the Toulouse-based company has grown into the world’s number one regional aircraft manufacturer with customers in over 100 countries worldwide.

ATR recently marked 40 years of plane building. Photo: ATR

TR has sold 1,700 planes over its 40-year history

On November 4, 1981, ATR’s founding partners, Aerospatiale of France and Aeritalia of Italy, signed the agreement that sealed the shared ambition to produce an aircraft designed for regional connectivity.

With an initial business case for a few hundred aircraft, 40 years later, the ATR family now has four versions and has sold 1,700 aircraft. For Airbus, which holds a 50% stake in the company, ATR is their entree card into the regional turboprop market.

“Our story is one of innovation and progress. Over four decades, we have brought connectivity and economic opportunity to remote regions across the globe,” said ATR CEO Stefano Bortoli.

“Most importantly, we will continue to make a difference, connecting people, businesses, and local communities in a sustainable way over the next 40 years.”

ATR’s best-known planes are its 42-600 and 72-600. Depending on the configuration, the 42-600 can seat between 30 and 50 passengers, operate on runways as short as 1,050 meters, and burns 30% less fuel than a comparable 50 seat regional jet. The bigger 72-600 seats between 44 and 78 passengers.

“ATR aircraft are suitable for all business models and all regions of the world, in any type of conditions (cold, hot, high altitude runways, harsh environments), and a wide range of airports (steep approach, unpaved airfields, short or narrow runways),” says ATR.

“This broad appeal and flexibility lead to strong asset values and wide acceptance of the aircraft in the airline and financing community.”

Since 1981, ATR has built around 1,700 planes. Photo: ATR

couple of variants on ATR classics

ATR has tinkered with the 42-600 and 72-600 to offer the 42-600 STOL (Short Take-Off and Landing) and a freighter version of the 72-600. The 72-600F is already in the air, with FedEx receiving its first-ever purpose-built turboprop regional freighter late last year. In 2017, FedEx ordered 30 ATR 72-600Fs with options to take a further 20 if needed.

The 42-600 STOL isn’t in the air yet, but it promises to reduce the required take-off and landing distances, down from 1,050 meters at present to just 800 meters. ATR says around 500 airports worldwide have a runway between 800 and1,000 meters long that could host the ATR 42-600 STOL

The aircraft’s design was recently finalized. The next phase involves ATR’s partners and suppliers to start drawing release for the new parts, source all necessary components and tools, and beginning to manufacture the parts.

ATR says thanks to the efficiency of turboprop technology and the benefits of the company’s focus on continuous innovation, their planes open more than 100 new routes on average every year, burn up to 40% less fuel and emit up to 40% less CO2 than regional jets.

An early ATR flying in now-defunct Brit Air colors. Photo: ATR

Targets set for the future

ATR has some ambitious goals over the next few years. They want to be able to fly on their planes on 100% sustainable aviation fuels by 2025. Also on the radar is the ATR 42-600 Short Take-Off and Landing version by 2025.

Over the longer term, ATR wants to expand the regional freighter offer with the ATR72-600F, tapping into the demand for 460 regional freighters over the next 20 years. By 2050, ATR is eyeing net-zero carbon emissions, a common goal that is helping to reshape the aviation business.

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