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The Next Turboprop

Rumors about an early change of CEO at ATR have added to ongoing uncertainty about the strategic direction of the Toulouse-based turboprop manufacturer.

Rumors about an early change of CEO at ATR have added to ongoing uncertainty about the strategic direction of the Toulouse-based turboprop manufacturer.

Last week a Reuters source told the agency that Christian Scherer, currently head of Airbus Group International, is due to replace Patrick de Castelbajac midway through the latter’s four-year term in charge of ATR.

De Castelbajac has spent much that time trying to reconcile the ambitions of ATR’s two shareholders – Airbus and Leonardo. The former wants to offer a new engine variant of the company’s best-selling ATR72 turboprop, while Leonardo would like to take full control of the company and release an all-new, 90-100-seat design.

The compromise proposed by the current CEO is to first roll out a re-engined ATR72, and then leverage the engineering skills developed on that project to pursue a clean-sheet aircraft. 

Such a solution, de Castelbajac says, would also shore up an ATR backlog – currently three years’ long – that has begun to look a little vulnerable after an extended period of low fuel prices.

If confirmed, the appointment of Scherer, one of the driving forces behind the A320neo programme, would suggest that ATR follows Airbus’ preferred strategy, and both GE and Pratt & Whitney Canada are waiting in the wings with new engine technology. 

Dubbed the CPX, GE says it could quickly roll out an advanced turboprop based on its T408 military powerplant, while P&WC has completed a demonstrator program for its ‘Next Generation Regional Turboprop’ (NGRT), which is designed to succeed its wildly successful PW100/150 family.

“We are now ready to launch the NGRT platform,” says Frederick Lefebvre, P&WC’s VP marketing. “We are staying close to all OEMs to understand their needs and deliver a fully integrated product. Our NGRT engine will be optimally positioned to meet the growing demand from emerging markets where we see the business need for a new generation of turboprop aircraft.”

For an update on development of a new turboprop engine for large regional aircraft, pick up the forthcoming edition of the Engine Yearbook.

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