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Return of the regional jet

While the Paris Airshow (PAS) was a great success for Airbus and Boeing (with a combined 888 orders and the announcement of the new 787-10 programme), it's easy to focus on the big guys and lose sight of the smaller folk. But not this year, which was all about the regional jet. ATR, which produces turboprop aircraft (technically, still jets) of up to 90 seats, had its best show to date, announcing a run of double-digit orders reflecting a renewed interest from both airlines and lessors...

While the Paris Airshow (PAS) was a great success for Airbus and Boeing (with a combined 888 orders and the announcement of the new 787-10 programme), it's easy to focus on the big guys and lose sight of the smaller folk. But not this year, which was all about the regional jet.

ATR, which produces turboprop aircraft (technically, still jets)  of up to 90 seats, had its best show to date, announcing a run of double-digit orders reflecting a renewed interest from both airlines and lessors.

Some had all but written off the regional jet as a dying breed; the belief was that airlines would look for larger aircraft in order to increase profit per flight. But the regional aircraft has always been the perfect fit for short, low-density routes and it is proving every bit a success for airlines wishing to start new services or to fly into small airports, such as in Latin America.

ATR's message to the industry from this year's PAS was that demand for the ATR is back, a thought reinforced by the static display of its aircraft next to the infamous DeLorean, the time-traveling car from the 1980s hit movie 'Back To The Future.'

"Some people think it's a thing of the past. It is a thing of the future," Filippo Bagnato, CEO of ATR, claimed during the press announcement for a landmark $2.1bn order by Nordic Aviation Capital (NAC) for 90 ATR-600s.

The order marked a shift for ATR, which typically announced sales within the single figures during such shows.

And it wasn’t the only sizeable deal for ATR. Lessor HGI Aircraft Division inked an order for 20 ATR 72-600s for Brazilian airline Passaredo Linhas Aéreas, in which HGI Aircraft Division is a shareholder.

The order not only reaffirms the ATR’s success with lessors (which now have more than 180 operators worldwide) but also within the growth market of Brazil.

Over the past three years ATR has received firm orders for over 60 ATR 72-600s for Brazilian airlines and since 2005 it has almost quadrupled the number of its aircraft on the Brazilian market. It estimates that over 100 ATR aircraft will be operating in Brazil in 2015.

Looking further afield, the 72-600 is Latin America's most popular regional aircraft. Indeed, over 200 ATRs will be in operation in Latin America within the next two years.

"The ATR 72-600 is the investment community's and aircraft operators' favourite for the regional market, and we are proud of this recognition," said Bagnato.

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