ATR 42 / ATR 72
The ATR 42 and ATR 72 are twin-engine turboprop regional airliners, seating between 40 and 74 passengers.
In 1981 the French aircraft manufacturer Aérospatiale (now part of Airbus Group) and Italy's Aeritalia (now Alenia Aermacchi and part of the Finmeccanica Group) established the joint venture ATR (Avions de Transport Regional) to develop a family of regional turboprop airliners. During the previous years both companies had been working on their own designs, Aérospatiale on the AS35 and Aeritalia on the AIT 230, and they decided to merge their concepts into a single project. In October 1981 the new design was launched as 'ATR 42' (42 refers to the number of seats in the aircraft, between 40 and 52).
The first of two ATR 42 prototypes, designated 'ATR 42-200' and fitted with two Pratt & Whitney Canada PW120 engines rated at 1,800 shp (1,300 kW), made its maiden flight on 16 August 1984. Certification by the Italian and French authorities followed in September 1985. The production version of the new airliner became the ATR 42-300, which had more powerful PW120 engines rated at 2,050 shp (1,529 kW). The first ATR 42 entered airline service in December 1985 with the French airline Air Littoral.
For better performance at hot and high airports ATR offered the 42-320 with more powerful PW121 engines. The ATR42-300QC (Quick Change) is a convertible freight/passenger version. Both the -300 and -320 remained in production until in 1996, the improved ATR 42-500 became the next standard model.
The interim ATR 42-400 is an upgraded version of the ATR-320, also fitted with PW121 engines and six-bladed propellers instead of the four-bladed ones on earlier versions. Only a few were built: three for the Italian Government as maritime patrol aircraft designated 'ATR 42 Surveyor' and two passenger aircraft for the civilian market, which were delivered to CSA Czech Airlines in 1995/1996 as an interim upgrade prior to the delivery of new generation ATR 42-500s.
The ATR 42-500 is a much improved version, which first flew in 1994. The first delivery took place in October 1995. The -500 has more powerful PW127E engines (2,400 shp - 1,800 kW) for improved hot and high performance, higher weights, a higher cruise speed, a revised interior and extra range. It also has six-bladed propellers, which turn slower than the earlier four-bladed ones and so contribute to lower noise levels inside the passenger cabin. The propellers are made of lightweight composites. Also new on the -500 is the digital electronic flight instrument system (EFIS) in the cockpit.
Today's standard production version is the ATR 42-600, which was launched in October 2007 and first flew on 4 March 2010. ATR delivered the first aircraft to US airline Precision Air in November 2012. The -600 is fitted with PW127M engines, which deliver extra power at take-off at warm and high airports. The cockpit has a completely new glass flight deck including five wide LCD-screens and new avionics. The ATR 42-600 also has lighter and more comfortable seats than earlier versions and larger overhead baggage bins. The tail section is being built of composites.
- ATR 72 -
The ATR 72 is a stretched version of the ATR 42, seating up to 74 passengers in a single-class cabin configuration. It has a 4.5 meter (15 feet) longer fuselage than its smaller stable mate, increased wingspan and more powerful engines. ATR announced the 72 in 1986 and its maiden flight took place on 27 October 1988. The first user was the Finnish regional airline Kar-Air, which received its first aircraft in October 1989.
The initial standard version was the ATR 72-200 with PW124B turboprops. ATR offered a version with more powerful PW127 turboprops for operations at hot and high airports as 'ATR 72-210'.
The improved ATR 72-500 (previously designated "ATR 72-210A"), with PW127F or -M turboprops, incorporates the same improvements as the ATR 42-500, like six-bladed propellers, higher weights, a more automated cockpit and better performance. There is also a hot-and-high variant with extra powerful PW127F engines. The ATR 72-500 took off for its maiden flight in 1998.
In October 2007 ATR announced the further improved ATR 72-600, which is today's standard production model. It first flew on 24 July 2009 and deliveries began in the second half of 2010 to Royal Air Maroc Express. The -600 is fitted with PW127M engines which have a so-called 'boost-function' for delivering 5 per cent extra power if necessary at hot and high airports. It also has the renewed flight deck and improved systems. Seats are lighter and overhead baggage bins larger.
ATR offers Quick Change versions for airlines which carry both passenger flights and cargo. It takes 30 minutes to convert an ATR 42 and 45 minutes for an ATR 72. In mid-2000, ATR launched a freighter conversion programme for both the ATR 42 and 72. Converted aircraft have a forward freight door installed and a cabin adapted for cargo. The first converted aircraft, two ATR 42-300s, were redelivered to DHL Aviation Africa late in the year 2000.
Of both main models ATR developed several versions for military use, including ASW (anti-submarine warfare) and MP (maritime patrol) aircraft. The ASW-versions are armed with a machine gun and can carry torpedoes, depth charges and missiles. Intended for military as well as civil use, but never built, was the ATR-52C with a redesigned tail including a rear loading ramp.
During the 1980s ATR considered a further stretched version as 'ATR 82', counting 78 seats and powered by two Allison AE2100 turboprops to increase cruising speed to 610 km/h (330 mph). Turbofans were also studied as power source for this aircraft. The project was cancelled, however, after the formation of AI(R) in early 1996. AI(R) (=Aero International (Regional)) was a consortium combining the regional-airliner activities of British Aerospace, Aérospatiale and Alenia, covering the Jetstream, Avro RJ and ATR. It was established in January 1996, but it was already dismantled in 1998 after plans to develop a new 70-seat regional airliner, the AIR 70, were cancelled.
The ATR 42 and 72 have become very successful, selling at their best in periods with high fuel prices. In June 2015 sales passed the milestone of 1,500 sales. ATRs are flying with more than 190 operators in 90 countries. Most aircraft rolling from the assembly line today are ATR 72s.
Do you know these tails?
Click on tails to see photos
See all ATR tails here