ATR is displaying its ATR 72-600 regional turboprop at the Africa Aerospace and Defence exhibition currently being held at Air Force Base Waterkloof outside Pretoria. The aircraft was brought out specifically for the event as ATR consolidates its presence on the African continent.
The ATR 72-600 on display features the new Armonia cabin, designed for ATR by Italian designer Giugiaro. Its presence is meant to showcase company’s determination to meet growing demand in one of the world’s most vibrant economies and its trust in the African regional aviation market potential, ATR said.
The company sees Africa as being prime for turboprops as they are able to operate in areas with little established infrastructure and can take off and land in much shorter distances than jets, are more fuel efficient, easier to maintain and are less susceptible to foreign object ingestion. ATR officials pointed out to defenceWeb that of the 2.7 billion passengers who flew last year, 30% travelled less than 300 nautical miles, a sign that the regional aircraft market is huge. In fact, ATR predicts the regional aircraft market to be worth 7 400 new aircraft over the next 20 years, according to Sonia Dumas, Head of Communications at ATR. The company is vying with Bombardier, its main competitor, to capture a large portion of this market.
ATR has substantially developed its presence in the Africa and Middle East region, increasing by 30% its fleet of aircraft as well as the number of its operators within the last three years. ATR counts today 35 operators in this region, operating 102 aircraft. “Their feedback is very positive and this let us believe that this market will keep growing in the near future. Our investment there is the proof of our confidence in this market,” ATR said. Around 10% of the company’s orders come from Africa and the Middle East. It has 18 aircraft on order from African customers.
ATR has further invested in Africa by establishing a training centre in Johannesburg with a flight simulator (it currently has training centres in Toulouse, Paris, Bangkok and Toronto). Pilots can fly four different ATR models (ATR 42-300/500 and ATR 72-200/500) using the Johannesburg simulator, with simple hardware changes, which take 15-30 minutes to implement. Training on the simulator began on February 1, 2012, and more than 1 000 people have used the simulator. ATR said its facility next to O R Tambo International Airport already functions as the main training centre for eleven airlines, including Air Botswana, Ceiba Intercontinental Airlines, Air Malawi, Overland Airways, Air Mauritius, Solenta Aviation, Regional Aviation Group, DHL, Precision Air Services, Tropical Air and SkyWest Airlines.
The centre allows ATR to offer its African and Indian Ocean island operators type and recurrent training courses for pilots for the models listed above, in addition to maintenance technician training. To operate the new facilities, ATR formed a partnership with Comair (operator of British Airways southern Africa and kulula.com).
Comair provides training services to around thirty airlines. In addition to the ATR full flight simulator (FFS), the Comair training centre also houses two Boeing 737-200/300/400/500/800 type simulators. Besides working with African airlines, Comair also works with operators from South America, Asia and the Middle East.
The simulator is available for use 24 hours a day and is 70% occupied. It can be flown either wet (with an ATR instructor) or dry (without an ATR instructor). The cost of a type rating, taking approximately five weeks, is around 20 to 25 000 euros, depending on the pilot’s previous experience. The simulator itself cost US$6-10 million. Between 17 and 30 September ATR is offering a promotional rate of 350 euros an hour for the simulator, versus the regular 450 euros an hour.
Apart from regional airliners, ATR also offers military models of its aircraft. The ATR 42 MP Surveyor (Maritime Patrol) version and ATR 72ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) version. Both of these have been developed by Alenia Aermacchi, which has a 50% share in the company. The Nigerian Air Force operates two Surveyor aircraft.
Since its creation in 1981, ATR has sold approximately 1,200 aircraft to over 180 operators based in 91 countries. ATR aircraft have totalled over 21 million flight hours.