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ATR props up Iran fleet

Posted 12 January 2018 · Add Comment

ATR is currently turning its turboprops into the backbone of Iran Air’s regional fleet as well as enjoying the dividends of its three decades of commitment to Africa and the Middle East. Vincent Chappard reports.

Iran took delivery of its first four ATR 72-600s earlier this year, thus embarking on a new aviation era following the relief of international sanctions.
There’s an urgent need to modernise and develop air transport to boost local economies throughout the country and improve regional connectivity, and ATR CEO, Christian Scherer, believes his company has a major part to play.
“By offering a combination of greater accessibility to remote airfields and lower operating costs than any other category of aircraft, turboprops have proved to be fundamental enablers for regional economic growth,” he said.
“The whole Middle East region is witnessing growth, even though these countries aren’t densely populated. They are investing in air transport development projects. Like other regions, the Middle East is conscious that its economic and social development depends on the expansion of its regional network connectivity.”
Earlier in 2017, ATR and Iran Air signed a firm contract for 20 ATR 72-600s (Pratt & Whitney PW127M engines) with options for a further 20.
Deliveries will extend until the end of 2018.
With a population of more than 80 million and many provinces and small cities, Iran is ready to re-modernise its air transport, which seems to be the best option to enable people to travel as rail and road connections also need to be renewed.
Surveys show that aviation demand in Iran will double over the next 10-15 years. This represents 300-350 new aircraft, including replacements, which count among ATR’s priorities.
Iran relies on a strong domestic infrastructure with 60 airports that ATRs are “fully capable of serving” as the ATR 72-600 is ideal for operating in many types of challenging environments, including small airfields, unpaved runways and mountainous regions.
The model will form the core of the Iran Air fleet, while substantially contributing to the expansion and development of the services provided across the country.
“Strengthening the links between all our communities will encourage new business opportunities for everyone,” explained Iran Air CEO, Farhad Parvaresh.
He said every factor had been studied, including technology, fuel burn, efficiency and comfort, in all of the 50-to-100-seaters on the market. “ATRs came out top in every category.”
Iran is also expected to be the Middle East’s next big tourism destination. The freshly open market will not only develop connectivity domestically but also with neighbouring countries. Parvaresh added that many new routes needed to be studied, while existing ones needed to be developed.
The number of flights serving Tabas, Shahre Kord, Rasht and Noshahr “could easily fill between seven and ten flights” compared to two or three weekly at present.
The carrier plans to use its ATRs to link cities in Azerbaijan, Dubai and Qatar (Doha) as “Iran has close links with many bordering countries”.
Parvaresh is optimistic about the development of tourist routes to, for example, the island of Kish in the Persian Gulf.
Scherer said: “There are historic moments in aviation and this is one of them. We are proud and gratified that our ATR aircraft are providing the solution to Iran’s significant needs in regional connectivity.”
Meanwhile, ATR claims to have the “largest heritage” in the Africa (including the Indian Ocean) and the Middle East for short-haul flights, with 120 aircraft in service, 300 routes and more than 30 operators in 25 countries.
According to forecasts, there will be an average annual fleet growth of 4.1% with 300 aircraft deliveries (60 TP50 and 240 TP75) in the next 20 years and 400 potential new routes.
Furthermore, the turboprop fleet in the region will see a 4.1% growth (from 230 in 2015 to 420 in 2035) during the same period.
The manufacturer sees a potential for nearly 2,800 turboprop deliveries worldwide in the next two decades, with 65% of them (1,800 aircraft) creating new routes or reinforcing existing networks.
According to ATR, the turboprop market is flourishing towards the south and east, with China expected to lead a strong growth in the next 20 years. This will reshape the current geographical distribution.
Figures on turboprop activity by region prove this trend: Africa-Middle East, 11%; North America, 12%; Latin America & Caribbean, 13%; Europe & CIS, 24%; Asia Pacific (excluding China), 31% and China 9%.
Today, 200 airlines operate ATRs in 100 countries around the world.
The manufacturer places the continuous development of its aircraft at the core of its business. As well as the new features displayed at the 2017 Paris Air Show, the company is about to receive certification for the new Standard 3 version of its avionics. This will combine a range of standard and optional features, designed to reduce both pilot workload and ease airline operations, ensuring that ATRs remain at the cutting-edge of technology.
The company has gradually established itself as the benchmark for regional airlines all over the world, booking around 75% of all turboprop aircraft sales since 2010, and 35% when compared to all regional aircraft below 90 seats.
Scherer proudly pointed out: “ATR has brought the latest technology to regional aviation during these past years. The ATR-600 features a modern cockpit that is compatible with the evolution in avionics over the next 20 years. It has the widest cabin in this market, offering more comfort than many jets. The aircraft is very quiet and has an unrivalled maintenance and fuel consumption cost in this segment.”
He added: “The ATR is the most modern aircraft in this market segment. We aim at staying the world leader at all levels. We are always ready to bring on board new technology, upgrade our engines and enhance passenger comfort. From a technological innovation point of view, our main focus is more on reducing maintenance costs.”
The increasing usage of turboprops on regional routes helps to reduce aviation emissions. “With a lighter frame, optimised flight speed and an engine developed for shorter routes, ATR-600 series aircraft offer the lowest fuel consumption and operating costs in their segment,” said Scherer, adding that they were the “greenest solution in the market”.
More than 400 turboprop freighters are expected to be operating by 2035. The demand for these platforms is increasing around the world with a higher demand for express service deliveries. “The rise in demand of cargo services will be triggered by emerging economies. The current freighter fleet is 27 years old on average and requires prompt replacement in different forms,” said Scherer.
The regional aviation market has evolved rapidly during the past decades, from a geographical and technological point of view and a business model perspective. This trend has revealed the potential of secondary and tertiary airports.
ATR forecasts show that demand in emerging countries is expected to grow eight times faster than that of mature economies. “There is a strong potential for the most populated countries to enhance their regional network and link the most remote communities,” believed Scherer.
According to ATR, the regional market remains one of the most buoyant sectors in the commercial aviation market.
The Africa-Middle East region has much potential and December’s Dubai Air Show is yet another “excellent opportunity”.

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