All ATR freighter aircraft in operation are conversions of passenger variants, but that is set to change following an order from Fedex Express for 30 new-build ATR 72-600Fs.
As well as launching a new business line, the deal continues a turnaround for ATR, which won just 36 orders in 2016 but already had gained 89 in the first half of this year.
As the newest ATR model, the -600 has never served as a converted freighter. Its passenger variant is an upgrade of the ATR72-500, which can fly about 225-nm farther than its predecessor, or transport 600-kg more weight over the same distance.
Fedex clearly values the performance of the new aircraft, although it also might be the case that its decision to buy new was influenced by limited supply of conversion options.
About 10% of the ATR fleet is now in the freighter market, but those models are exclusively ATR42-300/320 and ATR72-200 series freighters, both of which already operate for Fedex on feeder services.
“The 72-600F will play an important role in our global network by helping us deliver fast, economical service to small and medium sized markets,” says Fedex CEO David Cunningham.
Deliveries of new aircraft, for which Fedex has 20 options in addition to its 30 firm orders, will begin in 2020.
The ATR72-600F will feature a windowless fuselage, a forward large cargo door, a rear upper-hinged cargo door and reinforced floor panels.
It will have a bulk capacity of 74.6m3 or, in unit load device configuration, space for seven LD3 containers.
“The ATR 72-600F is the only new large regional aircraft available on the market for freighter operations,” says ATR CEO Christian Scherer.
“We are convinced that, with its use by FedEx Express, it will become the new benchmark for regional air cargo operations.”