Regional aircraft maker ATR mulls returning to China

Source:Global Times Published: 2016/9/22 20:43:39

ATR, the French-Italian aircraft manufacturer, is considering a return to China by targeting second- and third-tier cities in the world's second largest commercial aviation market.

ATR, a producer of regional aircraft with up to 90 seats, entered the Chinese market in 2006 and attempted to build a regional charter's production line in Hefei, capital of East China's Anhui Province. However, the company withdrew due to the poor market performance.

"A growing amount of large aircraft has contributed to the rapid development of China's aviation market, bringing the market for small regional aircraft," ATR CEO Patrick de Castelbajac said at a recent media brief in Beijing.  

Data from ATR showed that Chinese airlines had an aggregate fleet size of 2,600 aircraft in 2015, though only 68 planes were regional aircraft with fewer than 90 seats. Such aircraft made up 2.5 percent of the total fleet of Chinese airlines.

By comparison, regional aircraft with fewer than 90 seats accounted for around 30 percent of Australian airlines' total fleet.

In China, 16 to 17 percent of the routes shorter than 600 kilometers are flown on planes with fewer than 90 seats, compared with 40 percent of routes in Europe, and 80 percent of routes in Australia, said Wang Qi, vice president of the company's China sales department.

"The high-speed railway is similar to the big artery that connects mid-sized and large cities," Wang said.

"ATR's goal is to provide the capillaries."

In 2015, there were 214 civil airports in China. The top 50 handled 90 percent of the flight capacity. The bottom 100 civil airports handled 2 percent of the capacity, Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) said.

The figures show there is a need for regional aircraft. As part of its strategy to return to China, ATR said it plans to explore the general aviation market with the ATR42-600.

Currently, the company is conducting market research and is in contact with domestic airlines and the CAAC, Wang said.

Some companies have shown an interest in ATR aircraft, though Wang refused to provide  more details.

From 2010 to 2015, ATR aircraft accounted for 75 percent of turboprop market and 35 percent of the regional jet market.

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