Friday, 11 January 2008

Where's the Love? US Airways Calls ATR Turboprop "Very Old Design"

I wonder if ATR is in any way miffed at the apparent reversal in enthusiasm shown by US Airways for the European airframer's aircraft?

Just this past November the Star Alliance member said ATR’s 72-500 turboprop made a favourable impression on the carrier during the aircraft’s North American tour.

Specifically, US Airways lauded the ATR 72-500’s quiet cabin, headroom and carry-on bin space. It said the aircraft runs “remarkably quiet due to six-blade props and unique airframe design that absorbs prop noise outside of the passenger cabin” and boasts “favourable operating economics and seating configuration runs in the 64-70 seat range”.

That's not quite the same sentiment expressed by senior VP, schedule planning and alliances Andrew Nocella in a January 10 employee newsletter.

Nocella says: "We continue to look at the multiple options available to replace or extend the life of Piedmont Dash 8s. Choosing a successor plane for Piedmont is no small task. The new fleet choice will be something we live with for 15 to 20 years.

“The Q400 made by Bombardier is an amazing plane and is being considered but with its high capacity and fast speed relative to a Dash 8 it maybe more suited to replace RJs than Dash 8s.

“The ATR is slower, smaller and cheaper to fly than a Q400 but at its heart a very old design and much less capable plane on longer mission.”

Ouch! For the record, ATR recently launched the newest version of its turboprop family, the so-called -600 series, and says the aircraft will be progressively introduced during the second half of 2010. New-build ATR 72-500s, meanwhile, now boast some of the latest developments from ATR in communications, navigation tools and passenger comfort.

But these particulars might not matter much one way or the other.

Tellingly, Nocella now says US Airways has "many pros and cons to evaluate with these choices as well as other ideas we intend to explore.”

Other ideas eh? Now that is interesting. US Airways has previously shown interest in the Q300. Could a Q300/Q400 mix be in the offing?

And is the carrier also looking at RJs for Piedmont? It doesn’t appear so.

A US Airways spokesman says: “Regional jets really fit into PSA [Airlines], since they are our all-jet operator. Additionally, as you know, turboprops go places jets can’t bother operationally and economically so we’d like to have an aircraft in the fleet that can still service those types of markets.”

(Photo courtesy of ATR web site )

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