France-based turboprop aircraft manufacturer ATR is the world leader in the market for regional aircraft up to 90 seats. Established in November 1981, ATR is a joint partnership between two major European aeronautics players, the Airbus Group and Finmeccanica. ATR has sold more than 1,500 aircraft and has over 200 operators in 100 countries. Every 8 seconds, an ATR turboprop takes off or lands somewhere around the world.
In India, there are over 35 aircraft in operation. ATR is well established in India with over 35 aircraft in operation. ATR entered the Indian market in 1999 with the introduction of the comfortable and fuel-efficient 70-seat ATR 72 by Jet Airways. Among current ATR operators in India, there are Jet Airways (18 ATR 72s), Alliance Air (11 ATR 42s and 72s), and Air Pegasus (2 ATR 72s). A new regional start-up, TruJet, also introduced ATRs in 2015 (2 ATR 72s), operating from Hyderabad. Following its expansion in India, ATR set up in 2006 a Customer Support Centre in Bengaluru. Today, this centre supports more than 50 ATRs operated in South Asia.
For ATR, India is a very promising market. The growth of regional aviation market in India will substantially depend on the ability of the government to simplify the system. The regional aviation market will clearly grow if it is less burdened by the many taxes and administrative procedures. ATR understands there is a real demand to further expand regional connectivity across the country. There are 100 operational airports in India: all of them can be served with ATRs, while only 80 can accommodate single-aisle aircraft.
Indeed, some metros are getting congested, and the development of regions is the next impulse (regional connectivity as a key driver for economic development). A lot of thin short routes need to be developed in the North East, South India, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh...ATR aircraft are right sized, offer the lowest trip costs (minimise risks), and give access to more airports with minimum infrastructure (Kullu, Agatti Island, Shimla, Kota). ATRs do not require heavy investments, and can be used to test and develop new markets (especially at communities that today represents less than 10 per cent of the total domestic seat deployment). ATRs can also be the right tool to increase frequencies and complement larger aircraft on short distances and feed mainline jets flying trunk routes.
The Indian market is looking at regional jets as well. However, ATR believes that regional jets and turboprops are not operating exactly on the same field and this despite the decrease in oil prices. Jets are optimised for longer distances, or at larger capacities, while ATRs are perfect for short hauls and thin routes. Also, as mentioned, there is a number of airports in India where ATRs are able to operate while jets cannot. And ATR aircraft require fewer infrastructures, thus allowing airlines to develop their regional network with limited investments.
Train network is very well developed in India showing a strong propensity of Indian people to travel. Yet, trains in India are slow (50-70 kmph) and thus not convenient. ATR states that average travel distance by train is very short – not even 300 km indeed. This shows the strong potential of regional air transport. Should high speed train be implemented, it would address the much larger traffic flows between metros to fill in capacity as large as 700-1,000 seats per trip. ATR is not threatened by high speed train neither as it addresses thinner traffic demand. More, from a political standpoint, regional air transport can be implemented very quickly and gives a lot of network flexibility and opportunities. Indian road network is much less efficient and although it is an alternative transportation mode, driving time is not valuable. More, when comparing with ATR fuel burn per seat – 2.5 litres per 100 km – and a car fuel burn, owing there is barely 2 people by car, one would admit driving the same distance double emissions.
Based on current market dynamics and subject to right policy initiatives being implemented – many of them have already been announced in the draft new National Civil Aviation Policy – we foresee massive opportunities that will not only benefit the regional aviation but the Indian broader economy. The Indian domestic market grew by more than 20 per cent last year and the number of passengers carried could reach 100 million quickly. ATRs are optimally positioned to link middle-sized and small-sized towns, while contributing to feed main hubs. The ATR flexibility coupled with their low operating costs position them as the optimal tool to contribute to the expansion of regional air traffic. ATRs have been by far the preferred regional aircraft by Indian carriers in recent years, and the arrival of the newest ATR-600s with Jet Airways and Alliance Air is a clear evidence of their suitability for the Indian regional market.
ATR is already well-reputed worldwide by the fuel-efficiency and low environmental footprint of its aircraft. When compared to an equivalent-sized regional jet, an ATR burns up to 50 per cent less fuel. Besides this, ATR became in 2011 the very first regional aircraft manufacturer to get its ISO14001 certification for the entire life-cycle of its aircraft, from production to dismantling. ISO14001 is the world reference in terms of environmental friendliness in the industry. In addition, ATR is a key player of the European Union Clean Sky programme, which works on the greener aviation of tomorrow. In July 2015, an ATR 72 prototype did the first flight test campaign of the Clean Sky programme, with the aim of testing new and more effective composite insulation materials and new vibro-acoustic sensors integrated into a large panel of the ATR aircraft fuselage. The flights also tested new generation optical fibres for improved identification of microcracks and easier maintenance. More recently, in February 2016, the same ATR 72 prototype took to the skies on a second flight test campaign, to test an all electrical energy management system, optimising the electrical power distribution, as well as a new all electrical air conditioning system.
In an interview with SP’s AirBuz (August-September 2015) the ATR CEO Patrick de Castelbajac had said: “India is a very promising market. It looks to me that the current government is trying to resolve the blocks in the system. The system needs to be simplified. If that happens, then India will be a big market, if not the biggest. Indonesia is an important market for us. They have 60 to 70 aircraft on order and their GDP growth is 6.5 per cent and they fly a lot. Jet Airways was the first client in India when it bought a turboprop in 1999, followed by Alliance Air (Air India Regional). There are four operators in India with a fleet of 30 aircraft. We are talking with some startups and with quite a few people in India. The next growth market in the regional market is here. ATR has a 80 per cent market share in the turboprop market. When we look at regional aircraft below 90 seats we have 40 per cent market share, followed by Embraer.”
To a question on what the government needs to do to prop up the business aviation industry, he had said: “Simplicity will be most welcome. It is paramount that civil aviation should grow in India. It will grow if it is less burdened with way too many taxes and administrative burden. When we talk to the customer, this is what we hear and we share the expectation of our customers.”