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Cruising altitude

ATR achieved outstanding commercial successes last year. Now looking ahead, investment in training capabilities and innovation are key priorities. Keith Mwanalushi reports from Toulouse in France
 

In January the aviation media gathered in Toulouse to dissect ATR’s annual performance. Being a privately held company, the turboprop manufacturer does not publish precise numbers, but it has achieved turnover at a historical $1.8 billion level.


“Our shareholders [Airbus and Leonardo] are happy with our financial contribution in profit and in cash,” declares Christian Scherer, ATR’s Chief Executive Officer. “I believe that ATR is perhaps the most profitable airplane programme around, and that is a good thing,” he says.

 

ATR booked firm orders for 113 aircraft, along with 40 options in 2017. The level of firm sales during the year tripled the number of orders received from 2016 which stood at just 36.


The European OEM delivered 80 aircraft (70 new ATR 72-600s, 8 new ATR 42-600s and 2 second hand ATRs) and reached a book-to-bill ratio of 1:45. ATR secured a solid backlog representing three years of production.


Beyond the numbers of this book-to-bill ratio is a qualitative element that Scherer underlines. “The quality of the customers that we were able to secure in 2017 stands out,” he notes, pointing to airlines like Indigo, which he says is arguably the most efficiently run and modern carrier in a deregulated air transportation system in India.


“So, we won [as Scherer suggests] the mother of all battles in India and it’s a marriage of first choice between ATR and Indigo as the Indian regional market opened up under the government sponsored regional connectivity scheme,” he indicates.


In another noteworthy win, Scherer highlights that after a very hard-fought evaluation, the national flag carrier of Taiwan China Airlines and its regional subsidiarity Mandarin Airlines opted in favour of ATRs. He feels particularly gratified that all airlines serving the regional market in Taiwan today operate ATRs.


The company secured other orders from well-known brands but notably in 2017, ATR sold aircraft in every region of the world and invested substantially in growing markets. Obviously, the big ‘coup' of 2017 as Scherer puts it was the success in convincing FedEx to go for new regional aircraft acquisition in the 7 to 8 tonne category which translated in the commitment for the firm purchase for 30 ATR 72-600Fs plus 20 options. These aircraft will be the first new ATRs to be directly delivered from the factory in a freighter configuration. >>


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