WASHINGTON, D.C. — European Airframer ATR kicked off a North American demonstration tour to show how its 50- to 78-seat ATR turboprop family aircraft can be an option for airlines looking for lower operating costs and eco-efficient operations.

In remarks here May 6, ATR CEO Patrick de Castelbajac noted that more than 400 regional routes have been cancelled across the United States since 2006. “As of today, some 2,000 regional aircraft operate in the U.S., mainly regional jets,” he stated. “Over 30 percent of the routes operated by regional jets in the US are below 300 miles, a range where the operating costs and fuel efficiency of the newest generation ATR -600s are unrivalled.”

ATR CEO Patrick de Castelbajac. (Credits: ATR)
ATR CEO Patrick de Castelbajac. (Credits: ATR)

The last large U.S. turboprop order was Minneapolis-based Mesaba Aviation’s 50 orders and 22 options for the Saab 340B+ in March 1996. But de Castelbajac thinks that ATR can gain market share despite only having FedEx as a U.S. customer.

Regional aviation in the U.S. is made up of more than 2,000 aircraft that fly more than 10,000 flights a day, said de Castelbajac. “The average capacity is 61 seats, with 92 percent of regional flights are performed by regional jets,” he said. “And more than 30 percent of those flights of 100 to 300 miles are flown by regional jets.”

There are currently 300 turboprops flying in the U.S. with an average age of 21 years, said de Castelbajac. “More than 400 regional routes have been canceled since 2006,” he said. “And regional jets don’t have the economics to fly shorter turoprop routes because they’re uneconomical. We want to restore air connectivity, and we feel we have the right aircraft.”

“If I’m conservative, there’s a turboprop replacement market of 250 if you’re not replacing regional jets,” said de Castelbajac. “But with Regional Jets replacements, that potential jumps to 500. I can’t say that ATR’s market share will be less. It won’t be 90 percent like Asia, but 70 to 75 percent in North America is achievable once people get to fly on it and see the economics.”

The list price for the ATR-72-600 is $26.8 million, while its competitor, the Bombardier Q400 lists for $32 million, said de Castelbajac. “We offer a family of two aircraft —a 50 seater and a 68 to 78 seater.  It’s almost the same aircraft, with more than 90 percent of common spares parts, along with the same cockpit, crew, engines and propellers,” he said.

The ATR-72-600 is optimized for the U.S. market, said de Castelbajac. The turboprop includes a redesigned interior cabin, the widest cross-section in the turboprop segment, more personal space for passengers, larger overhead bins and the ability to offer seating in three classes, including a three-abreast first class section.

ATRs have traditionally had a rear boarding door. “But we will now do a front door to accommodate air bridges,” said de Castelbajac. “We have flexible solutions for U.S. operators, including single and dual-class seating for the  ATR 42 and single and triple class for ATR 72.”

ATR has had more than 1,500 firm orders, with 200 operators in 100 countries, and is especially strong in Europe and Asia. The tour started May 2 in Toronto, with stops in Chicago, White Plains, new York, Hyannis, Massachusetts, Washington D.C., Dallas, Seattle and Cincinnati. The aircraft will also be featured on static display at the annual Regional Airline Association convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, May 8-10.