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Regional connections

Aircraft manufacturer ATR delivered a strong performance in 2018, and looking ahead there is strong emphasis on tapping new markets. Keith Mwanalushi reports from their annual press conference in Paris
 
ATR’s new Chief Executive Stefano Bortoli delivered his first address to industry journalists in Paris, France to present the company’s annual results. By all accounts it looks like 2018 was a good year at ATR. Bortoli says the company maintained its leadership position in the turboprop market showing a solid performance by delivering 76 aircraft, booking 52 firm orders, and stabilised its annual turnover at $1.8 billion. With a total of 165 orders and 154 deliveries between 2017 and 2018, ATR achieved a book to bill ratio above one.
 
In a difficult environment, ATR succeeded in reallocating the aircraft it was unable to deliver to Iran Air, having only just delivered five units: “We had planned to deliver 12 aircraft, but we had to change our plans because we were forced to deliver the aircraft in a much shorter deadline,” explains Bortoli.  So, ATR was challenged with finding new customers for the remaining seven aircraft that were intended to be delivered to the Iranian customer. “We eventually succeeded in delivering the last one on 20 December [2018] and we have fully allocated the seven aircraft.”
 
With around 62% of the turboprop orders for the year, with the ATR -600 series, Bortoli says it’s a consistent position that the OEM has held in the last 10 years. He says every eight seconds there is an ATR taking off or landing somewhere in the world, with 200 operators in 100 countries. In 2018, ATR has sold aircraft in every region of the world, and welcomed three new operators into the ATR family (Silver in the US, Ewa Air in Mayotte in the Indian Ocean and HAC in Japan) – “We have been able to go back to the US with an order with Silver Airways. 
 
They have bought a combination of -42s and -72s. I’m glad that we are back in the US for the first time since 1995,” he mentions.Interestingly, analysts at Forecast International say the very mature regional airline sector in North America is currently generating only limited opportunities for growth, but the regional sectors in Europe and especially Asia are showing considerable dynamism.  Regional carriers in North America are hampered by such obstacles as major airline consolidation (resulting in less feeder work), a severe pilot shortage, and scope clause restrictions on aircraft size and weight. 
 
Bortoli however reckons there is further room for turboprops in the US market. In general, he feels 2018 was a year to celebrate for ATR for various reasons. Firstly, when observing the trends in regional aviation (comprising turboprop and jet) he says this market grew in 2018 by 3.8% measured in Available Seat Kilometres (ASKs). In comparison ATRs have grown in the market by 5% – “So through our customers we have grown more than the market, while other turboprops have lost market share, that’s a positive indicator of the health of ATR in the present market.” 
 
Last year, ATR also signed two contracts for its new ClearVision system, the wearable display units on the new ATR-600 series which enhances the capability to operate the aircraft in low visibility environments, one of the launch customers being Guernsey-based carrier Aurigny. Aimed at enhancing safety, the system will contribute to the operational availability of turboprop aircraft that may require operating from airfields lacking sophisticated infrastructure. Guernsey, situated in the English Channel, is regularly affected by fog, often at short notice, leading to disruptions to flight operations. The airline anticipates that this innovation will deliver significant savings in their future operations.
 
Bortoli expresses content with the geographical reach of the customer base at it stands today with last year ushering in five new -600 series operators including Air Botswana.  The African carrier is a long-standing ATR operator for over 20 years, and is currently upgrading the fleet with -72 600s. He says with over 120 ATR aircraft flying in Africa, ATRs are the right aircraft for regional aviation in the continent. “We have a very well spread presence around the globe, reaching out to areas that are favourable and tailored to ATRs,” he adds.
 
While ATR continues to grow its geographical presence, it is also pushing hard to grow its services business, which is making a significant contribution to revenues. ATR gained 15% more customers for its tailor-made pay-by-the-hour maintenance programme, the Global Maintenance Agreement (GMA), and Caribbean airline Bahamasair and Braathens Regional Airlines, BRA of Sweden being the latest airlines to sign up to the programme. He says the $1.8bilion turnover for 2018 is a combination of selling products as well as selling services – “The GMA is a tailored proposal, meaning we can customise in accordance to the customer’s requirements for after sales services.” >>
 

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