MIAMI – Today in Aviation, The first ATR-42 was delivered to its Montpellier, France-based launch customer Air Littoral (FU) in 1985.
The French-Italian plane maker ‘ATR’ set about designing a competitor to the British Aerospace HS.748 and Fokker F27 in 1981. The ATR prototype F-WEGA had taken to the skies for the first time on August 16, 1984.
Launch customer FU commenced operations on May 23, 1972, with a flight between Nice (NCE), Montpellier (MPL), and Perpignan (PGF). In 1996 the airline created a Nice-based subsidiary known as Air Littoral Riviera.
As the carrier expanded it formed a number of partnerships with other airlines. As well as a long-standing agreement with Air France (AF) it became a Lufthansa (LH) partner in June 1997. The Sair Group owner Swissair (SR) took a 44% stake in the carrier in September 1998.
Talks began in May 2000 of a merger between AOM (IW), Air Liberté (IJ) and Air Littoral, but fell through before any progress was made.
Financial troubles plagued the airlines for many years In July 2001 FU went through a full restructuring which saw routes, staff, and aircraft cut. But this wasn’t enough to save the airline which was grounded by the French government in February 2004.
FU’s initial -300s were eventually replaced by the -500 series following a 15-aircraft order placed in 1996.
The -500 was originally announced in June 1993. The upgraded aircraft had improved hot and high performance and an improved passenger cabin. It was powered by new Pratt & Whitney PW127 engines with six-blade propellers.
Featured image: Air Littoral’s colorful livery was introduced before the airline’s demise. (Photo: Aero Icarus from Zürich, Switzerland, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)