In an interview with our sister publication Air&Cosmos, Christian Scherer, who has been CEO of Franco-Italian regional turboprop builder ATR since October 2016, talks about market prospects and the need for a larger-capacity aircraft. Some extracts.
On 2016 and prospects for 2017: “Demand dropped in 2016 for several reasons: currency fluctuations vs the dollar, particularly in Brazil and Indonesia; cheaper fuel, leading to pre-owned regional jets coming back onto the market; speculation on the part of the leasing companies, who over-estimated the size of the market; pilot shortages at some regional airlines; and low availability of simulators for pilot transition training. We see no major change in 2017, so we will be holding deliveries at around 80 aircraft per year, rather than the 100 level we had originally been aiming for.”
On pilot shortages: “We will be installing an ATR 72-600 simulator close to Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport by the end of the year. This will be in addition to our existing simulators in Toulouse and Singapore and a new simulator in Miami, which will be operational as of end-March.”
On market prospects in China: “I can see no economic or technical reason why the regional aircraft market should not take off in China. The contacts I have had in China show that private companies and provincial authorities have a real need for an aircraft like the ATR -600 to develop air services that are needed for economic reasons, particularly in the outlying provinces. We need to obtain Chinese certification for the ATR -600 and demonstrate that our aircraft offer superior technical reliability and operating economics compared with the MA-60 and future MA-700. We also see major potential in India and the U.S.”
On the need for a larger ATR aircraft: “The priority is to continue to improve our existing aircraft, as we have done by optimizing the cabin on the ATR 72-600 to increase capacity. And we are working on a short take-off and landing version of the ATR 42-600, aimed particularly at operators in Asia and South America. Another major focus is the reduction of MRO costs on certain components. As for the larger ATR, our shareholder Leonardo is right to declare that there is a market for such an aircraft. Airbus, meanwhile, is also right to underline that there is no rush to launch such a programme. I am convinced that there is a demand for a larger ATR. Imagine how it would shake up the 100-seat jet market.”